Drama for Mama: American Idol Elimination Night

amer-idol.jpgThe final four has been selected: Jason, David Cook, David Archuleta and Syesha. That means sweet, blonde, goofy yet lovable Brooke White is going home to her husband and to pay a visit to the cute twin babies she nannied before achieving American Idol stardom. When Ryan gave her the bad news, we all knew the floodgate of tears would open. Brooke went into what Oprah calls “the ugly cry.” But hey, she’s the kind of girl who doesn’t hold back. What you see is what you get.

I’m betting that what Brooke gets is a recording contract. I think she could take her place in the ranks of other singer/songwriters who have made it big like Alicia Keys. So tell me, mamas. Who are you rooting for to take the title? Comment below!

5 Minutes With a Mom

Jennifer EnlowName: Jennifer Enlow

Originally from: Born in New York; grew up in Rogers, AR

Age/gender of children: Boy 5, Girl 2

What’s your favorite place to hang out with the kids? the backyard

What’s your best defense against stress? the gym

What’s your favorite chick flick? Pretty Woman

If you had one week at home by yourself, what would you do? That would never happen

Advice you wish someone had given you when you first became a mom? choose your battles wisely

If money were no object, where would you go on your dream vacation? any place with a great beach

What’s your most meaningful family heirloom? photo albums

If you were going to college in the fall, what would you study? medical school

If you could meet one influential woman, dead or alive, who would it be? Oprah Winfrey

What’s something you’ve been meaning to do but it never seems to be a good time? my revolving “to do” list

Parenting is … the best thing I’ve ever done

One phrase to sum me up: “What you see is what you get”

Advice: Mind Your Mama

Dear Jennifer,

Lately my friend’s husband has been very flirty with me when my friend walks out of the room. I keep thinking that maybe it’s all in my head, but I definitely notice a change in the way he treats me. If I talk to her about it and I’m wrong about him, it’ll ruin our friendship. But if I’m right about him, it’ll still ruin the friendship. I feel trapped. What can I do?

Dear Trapped,

I’m a firm believer in trusting your intuition. Maybe he is just testing the waters, or maybe he is already fishing. Either way, take the first opportunity and speak directly to him. Say something like “Bill, I know you’d never want to make me uncomfortable because you know how important Diane’s friendship is to me. But lately your comments make me feel awkward. I’d like it if we could keep things the way they’ve always been. I’d really appreciate that.”

Make sure that for a period of time you’re not alone with this guy under any circumstances.

Dear Jennifer,

I’m the first-time mom of a 5-month-old son and neither one of us is getting much sleep at all. And I’m so sick of hearing about the “cry it out” method. I’ve tried it (a little) and I just can’t do it. It feels wrong to me. On the other hand, I’m desperate for sleep and don’t know what to do. When my friends and relatives talk about letting him “cry it out,” I feel so incompetent because I haven’t been able to get him “sleep trained.” What do I do about the sleep problems, and what can I say to get everybody off my back?

Dear Tired,

Sleep deprivation is a serious problem. You will not find answers by doing what feels wrong, and you will not find answers by trying any solution “a little.” You have to make some changes and stick with them. One possible change is to find a program for sleep training and follow it completely, wanting sleep for yourself and your son enough to see it through.

If that’s not for you, learn to nap when your baby does. One technique is to lay in a cool, quiet room, clear your mind and count backwards from 50 with each breath. Some moms learn to nap and get by with that little bit of extra sleep. Others never master the nap, often because the time when the baby is sleeping is the only time they have to themselves. Find a program that works for you, and follow it. Don’t worry about your relatives. When they sense you’ve made a choice and are committed to it, they’ll back off.

Bear in mind that these days will pass. Until they do, however, sleep deprivation can exhaust you and your immune system, creating a cycle of stress that becomes self-sustaining. You may want to talk to your doctor if you are feeling depressed, out of control or overwhelmed – all conditions that make it hard to make decisions and stick with them. Don’t let the lack of sleep affect your health or your marriage, and don’t underestimate how easily it can do both.

Jennifer Hansen is a syndicated columnist, mom of two, and one of those insightful friends who will tell you what you need to hear, regardless of whether or not it’s what you want to hear. She’s not a psychologist or licensed counselor, but she is one smart mama.


Drama for Mama: American Idol

amer-idol.jpgNo matter how you feel about Neil Diamond’s music, you’ve got to hand it to the guy. He’s enjoyed one of the longest, most successful careers in music history. The legend mentored five finalists on American Idol Tuesday night when each singer performed two songs.

Jason Castro’s first song was “Forever in Blue Jeans.” It was okay, but just okay. Simon called it “forgettable.”

David Cook followed with “I’m Alive,” a lesser known song. Neil Diamond said it gave him goose bumps. Hard to get a much better review than that.

Brooke White sang “I’m a Believer,” and I didn’t love it. Simon called it a “nightmare.” It wasn’t that bad, but it definitely wasn’t great.

David Archuleta sang “Sweet Caroline.” Neil Diamond called him a prodigy. Randy called him “da bomb.”

Syesha wrapped up the first round of songs with “Hello Again.” Has anybody noticed how beautiful this girl’s teeth are? They’re perfect. Oh, and she can sing, too.

On to Round Two: Jason was back with “September Morn.” Here’s his problem. He’s so laid back that he almost seems a little bored. The judges were not impressed.

David Cook brings what Jason lacks – raw intensity. Cook sang “All I Really Need Is You,” and it sounded like something you’d hear on the radio today. Randy said he “rocked the house” and Simon called it “brilliant.” The big shocker came when Paula, who is typically very non-committal when it comes to predictions, said “I feel like I’m already looking at the American Idol.” Wow.

Brooke White redeemed herself with her piano version of “I Am I Said.” When she does what she does best, she really shines.

Boy wonder David Archuleta sang “America” for his second song, a choice that the judges said was very smart. (Nobody ever gets eliminated after singing a patriotic song. Ever notice that?)

Syesha closed the show with “Thank the Lord for the Nighttime.” She really seems to be hitting her stride these days and looks more comfortable on stage than ever. Randy said “You are finally realizing who you are, and you’re in the zone.”

Prediction: If voters go by performance and not popularity, Jason will go home. If it’s a popularity vote, Brooke and/or Syesha will be in the bottom two.

Local Group Meets to Discuss Celiac Disease

nfca.gifHow many of you are familiar with celiac disease? Even if you’ve never heard of it, chances are you’ve noticed more and more “gluten-free” products popping up at local grocery stores and even on menus at restaurants like Outback Steakhouse and Bordino’s.

The glut of gluten-free products has people with celiac disease dancing in the aisles.

At the invitation of a friend, I recently checked out a meeting featuring some big players in the celiac disease arena: Alice Bast, founder of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, and Vanessa Maltin, director of programming and communications for the foundation and author of the cookbook “Beyond Rice Cakes.”

The two were in Northwest Arkansas to meet with Wal-Mart executives. I don’t have the disease, but the meeting room at Ozarks Electric Cooperative in Fayetteville was filled with people from across Northwest Arkansas who suffer from celiac, an autoimmune digestive disease that’s triggered by eating the protein called gluten which is found in wheat, barley and rye. Some were newly diagnosed and looking for information about living with the disease.

Alice shared with them that before she was diagnosed, her first baby was still-born, she suffered through multiple miscarriages and her oldest child was born at two pounds. Like so many others in the room, it took her many years to find a diagnosis. Alice said her mother died of pancreatic cancer at age 52 and she found out that undiagnosed celiac diseases can lead to that type of cancer.

But the meeting also had some fun mixed in with the facts: there were gluten-free food samples from Outback Steakhouse and Harp’s grocery store and Vanessa demonstrated cooking a few recipes from her cookbook. Her noodle soup was delicious and the chocolate chip cookies looked great, but I didn’t try them (I was kicking myself on the way out for that one).

Sherry Ponder-Roth, the “natural solutions manager” at Harp’s, said when she first started the job three years ago it occurred to her there was a need for a gluten-free section in the store.

“It was taking people so long to shop because they had to read the labels on everything,” she said. “So it made sense to pull it all together.”

Sherry said the disease is becoming more prevalent and even warehouse catalogs have started offering a gluten-free section for her to order from.

After looking at pamphlet from the foundation, I saw that some common symptoms of celiac disease are: digestive issues like diarrhea or constipation; discolored teeth or loss of enamel; fatigue; joint pain; significant unexplained weight loss; fractures or thin bones; canker sores; tingling or numbness in hands and feet; itchy skin rash; and missed menstrual periods. Alice told me there are specific blood tests that can tell a doctor whether that’s the problem. I left the meeting informed and newly aware of what “gluten-free” really means to many people trying to manage their celiac disease.

For those in Northwest Arkansas there’s a support group called ROCK (Raising Our Celiac Kids). It started out as a group for parents of children with the disease, but it has grown to include adults as well. There is also an online resource available — ArkansasROCK. For more information about either group, call Melanie Faught at 479-582-9232.



All Akimbo’s Mojo: ‘It’s My Potty and I’ll Go if I Want To’

Mojo has just turned 3, and I know there’s still a good chance that he won’t start kindergarten in diapers.

But, I gotta say, his attitude about the potty is starting to get me down.

His response when asked if he’s going to use the potty? He says, “I just don’t want to do that.”

How am I supposed to counter that kind of logic? I mean, obviously, if it was something he needed to do immediately – like, say, brushing his teeth or washing his hands before dinner – I would let him know that not wanting to wasn’t going to set him free. I’m pretty sure this is one of those things I can’t force him to do, no matter how much I might wish I could. That’s why I haven’t even tried.

I’ve read that it’s never a good idea to force a kid to potty-train, that it simply won’t work unless it’s something they want to do from the bottoms of their little hearts and the seats of their little pants, and I get that.

But oh, what I wouldn’t give for some good advice on how to respond to that plain a refusal!

For that, I would almost give up a chance to go to the potty by myself. Except … well, I already gave that up. Really, what mom hasn’t given that up? Sometimes I try to sneak up the stairs when Mojo isn’t looking so I can have a mere two minutes of privacy, but he has potty radar and he always knows what I’m up to. And then, even though he motors up and down the stairs on his own steam several times every day, he will fling himself onto the bottom three steps and wail at the top of his little lungs, “Mama!!! Come back!!! Maaaamaaaaa!!!”

Oh, yeah, I’ve tried ignoring the melodrama, but that eventually leads to his dejectedly climbing said stairs and sobbing like I have abandoned him in the middle of Wal-Mart, and too far from the toy section.

Someday, I know, we’ll all potty in peace. I’ll wish I had these days back.

Beauty Buzz: Ask Amy

Dear Amy,

My face is severely oily. What is a good product or products to help control the oil?

Dear Rachel,

The most important thing to remember with oily skin is that you have to treat it gently. Most people assume that a strong astringent is the best way to soak up excess oil, but harsh ingredients like alcohol, witch hazel and menthol can actually make skin even oilier. The first step in controlling oily skin is to use a gentle, soap-free cleanser in the morning and at night. My dermatologist recommends Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser as a great, no-frills option. I love it because it removes all of my makeup, doesn’t sting my eyes and it’s super cheap. You can skip the toner and moisturizer – oily skin doesn’t really need it. Every other day or so, try an oil-absorbing mask like Estee Lauder’s So Clean Deep Pore Mask. If you wear foundation, always go for one that’s oil-free. I like Laura Mercier’s new Mineral Powder SPF 15 – it seems to really cut down the oiliness. When your skin starts getting shiny, try blotting papers like Clean & Clear Oil-Absorbing Sheets. And don’t forget that oily skin needs sun protection too. I like Neutrogena Healthy Skin Visibly Even Daily SPF 15. Hope this helps!

Dear Amy,

I keep hearing about microderm abrasion kits. What are they, do they really work, and, if so, can you recommend a good one that won’t break the bank?

Dear Curious,

The only one I have tried is L’oreal’s ReFinish Micro-Dermabrasion Kit. It’s a little pricey for a drugstore product – around $25 or so, and includes a topical scrub and a sunscreen that you apply afterward. The scrub contains the ingredient aluminum oxide, supposedly the same type of exfoliant used in professional microdermabrasion treatments. The instructions say to use the scrub in the morning (not sure why), and to gently massage your skin for one to two minutes before rinsing. I did notice some immediate softening of the skin, but I have to admit that it just doesn’t hold a candle to a microdermabrasion performed by a dermatologist or qualified aesthetician. After a professional treatment, your skin feels like a baby’s butt and has a noticeable “glow.” Maybe I was expecting a little too much from a do-it-yourself product, but next time, I will save my pennies and go for the real thing.

Drama for Mama: Desperate Housewives

desperate_housewives_21.jpgThe episode opened with Dylan seeing blue lights in her rearview mirror. The officer who let her off with a warning approached her the next day in the park with some surprising news: he’s her father. (She didn’t ask for any proof, by the way. Teenagers…. Whadda ya gonna do?) The cop manipulated young Dylan into agreeing not to tell her mom about their secret meetings. The whole thing feels a little on the creepy side to me.

Catherine and Bree decided to go into the catering biz together after last week’s charity ball received rave reviews. No doubt there’ll be more cat-fight friction with these two.

Gabi and Carlos had a show-down over whether or not his new seeing-eye dog, Roxie, could sleep on their bed. When Carlos put up a fight for his new furry companion, Gabi dog-knapped her and tried to return her to the trainer. It backfired, of course. Gabi got busted and Carlos got his dog back. When Edie dropped by to deliver dog biscuits, she gave Gabi a little neighborly advice about easing up on Carlos. While their whole love-hate, sexy yet cruel relationship might have worked in the past, it seems a little lopsided now that Carlos is blind. Gabi took the advice because the episode closes with a shot of the new dog sleeping at the foot of their bed.

Julie told Mike, who’s back from rehab, that Orson said he ran over him with his car. Mike confronted Orson, who broke down in tears and admitted it. Mike told Susan, who stormed over to Orson’s house to scream at him. (She did this wearing maternity lingerie with a robe barely covering it. Now who does that? Even at my most hormonal, I wouldn’t have done that.) Mike told Susan he’s going to forgive Orson because he thinks he really is sorry. Susan told Bree that she’ll try to forgive Orson, too. But it’s too late because Bree had already kicked her hubby out of the house.

The biggest news last night was over at the Scavo house. Tom and Rick came to blows over Rick’s torched restaurant, and the two of them ended up at the police station, where Lynette concocted a false alibi for her husband. Later that night, with Tom sleeping on the couch, their twin boys crawled into bed with Lynette and admitted they were the ones who set fire to Rick’s restaurant. Whoa! This is WAY bigger than breaking a neighbor’s window with a baseball.

Coming up next week: Justine Bateman rents a room with cash-strapped Gabi and Carlos and she may be turning tricks on Wisteria Lane. And Orson finds a friend in Edie? There’s an odd couple. Stay tuned.

Drama for Mama: Brothers & Sisters

brothers-sisters.jpgThe show began with Robert and Kitty hoping for viable embryos to implant and waiting to see if Robert would be asked to join the presidential ticket as vice president. He was asked, and Kitty can’t stand the Republican nominee. She told Robert she didn’t think he should do it, that she wanted him to want to turn it down and focus on their relationship and possible baby. But it was obvious he was torn.

Holly and David were busy planning a romantic getaway as their relationship turned serious. But when the DNA tests came back, Rebecca finally got a definitive answer to her “Who’s my daddy?” question. It’s David. She was none too happy with him or with her mother for keeping the truth from her. When Justin asked her about it, she lied and pretended to still be a Walker. But there’s no denying that Justin was subconsciously disappointed. I smell romance possibilities between these two BIG TIME. Daddy David packed his bags and left for New York, telling Holly he had just come back for a fling for old time’s sake instead of telling her he knew the truth about being Rebecca’s father.

Graham and Sarah got into an argument because she’s a control freak who freaked out when she learned that Saul approved the China deal with Graham without her consent. Now she’s going to be really ticked because they just found out that the deal went south and the company may go under. Yikes.

Finally, Robert turned down the VP position, mostly because he realized that the would-be president is an arrogant jerk who wouldn’t listen to him anyway. But Kitty is worried he might one day resent her for opposing the career move. Kitty’s first round of embryos weren’t viable so they’re going for round two.

Next week: Looks like Kitty and Robert try baby-making the old fashioned way (Always good for the ratings when Rob Lowe is partially naked.) Nora finds out that the family biz is in big trouble. And it looks like the truth may come out soon about Rebecca’s true paternity.

Power Cooking: Three Make-Ahead Recipes

Happy Monday, mamas! I hope you had a restful weekend and didn’t have to do too much of anything that you really didn’t love. I finally dug out the fossilized mums from last fall and got some pretty pink flowers planted in the front yard. I also carved out time to go eat dinner with my husband and it was heavenly to sit still and chat with no interruptions except for the occasional “more bread?” or “more iced tea?” questions.

But now it’s Monday morning and time for Let the Routines Begin! And part of the mama routine is cooking dinner. That’s something we want to help with at MotherLode. Every Monday we’ll serve up some dinner ideas to help expand your culinary horizons. I wanted to share one of the best things I’ve done lately to help make dinner-making fast and easy. You just follow a recipe for make-ahead ground beef and freeze it for later. Here’s how you do it: cook three medium, chopped onions and three pressed garlic cloves together with three pounds of lean ground beef (or lean ground turkey) over medium high heat for about 15 to 18 minutes. After cooking the ground beef, onion and garlic together, separate the mixture into one-pound portions and put them into gallon freezer bags (or save out a pound of the mixture for a meal you’re about to make).

I snagged this idea at a Pampered Chef “power cooking” seminar by independent consultant and mama to three, Angela Mueller. Angela has been a Pampered Chef consultant for seven years and has all kinds of cooking tricks up her sleeve. She’s very impressive when she uses all those cool gadgets!

But back to the make-ahead beef: Angela said it’s best to flatten the ground beef mixture in the baggies so you can stack them on top of each other in the freezer. I thought this was great advice and it worked like a charm.

If you’ve ever been to a Pampered Chef party, you know that they always make something tasty as part of the demonstration. Angela made Easy Beef Stroganoff and Italian Beef Hoagies so we could try some of the tasty Pampered Chef recipes you can make with the frozen make-ahead beef mixture.

Once you have the basic mixture, you can add some other ingredients before you freeze to make three delicious recipes: Easy Beef Stroganoff, Saucy Beef Chili and Zesty Beef Tacos (Pampered Chef gives a few more recipes, but I’m sticking with these three.) You can freeze these up to three months.

EASY BEEF STROGANOFF — Add the following ingredients to one portion of the make-ahead beef: an 8-ounce package of sliced mushrooms; 1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup; ¼ cup water; 1 teaspoon ground paprika; ½ teaspoon salt; ¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper. Put it all in a baggie and freeze. When you’re in the mood for some stroganoff, just pull the mixture out of the freezer and put it in a skillet. Bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Next, add an 8-ounce container of sour cream to the mix. Meanwhile, cook one pound of egg noodles and drain. Add ¼ cup snipped fresh parsley and two tablespoons melted butter to the noodles. Spoon stroganoff over noodles and sprinkle with additional paprika and parsley if you like.

SAUCY BEEF CHILI – Add the following ingredients to one portion of the make-ahead beef: 1 can (16 ounce) chili beans in sauce, undrained; 1 can (14.5 ounce) petite diced tomatoes, undrained; 1 ½ cups water; 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste; 1 packet chili seasoning mix. Freeze. When it’s a chili night, just put the frozen mixture into a skillet over medium heat and cook until heated through. Once it’s hot, the chili’s ready for bowls and you can add your favorite toppings like shredded cheddar cheese, sliced green onions or sour cream.

ZESTY BEEF TACOS – Add the following ingredients to one portion of the make-ahead beef: 1 cup chunky salsa; 1 can (6 ounce) tomato paste; ¾ cup water; 1 package taco seasoning. Freeze until you’re ready to heat up the meat for some quick tacos. Add cheese, tomatoes or anything else your heart desires.

Angela Mueller is an independent Pampered Chef consultant. Her e-mail is achef@cox.net.

Devotion in Motion: The Gift of Wisdom

As mamas, one of the things we need most is wisdom. So this week I took a lesson from King Solomon, who is regarded as one of the wisest people in the Old Testament. (You probably remember the story of how he settled a dispute between two mothers who were arguing over one baby – each claiming the child was her own. He ordered the baby be cut in two and half given to each woman. One woman agreed and the other insisted the baby not be harmed and instead given to the other woman. The responses proved that the second woman was the true mother.)

In 1 Kings 8: 56-61, Solomon prays for his people and makes five basic requests. He prayed:

for God’s presence.

for the desire to do God’s will in everything.

for the desire and ability to obey God’s commands

for help with each day’s needs.

for the spread of God’s Kingdom to the entire world.

So simple, and yet so wise. Perhaps his prayer can serve as a pattern for our own. Here’s another quick verse about wisdom that has become one of my favorites:

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you.”

James 1:5 (Life Application Study Bible, New Living Translation)

From one mama to another, I hope you have a blessed week full of the gift of wisdom.

The Rockwood Files: Play-by-play

basket2.jpgI don’t believe in reincarnation. But if I did, I might think that legendary sports announcer Howard Cosell has returned to earth as my 6-year-old son.

The sports bug sunk its teeth into Adam shortly after his fifth birthday. Suddenly everything was a game. Suddenly every t-shirt with a basketball or football on it was the coolest shirt in the whole world. Suddenly the channel changed from Nickelodeon to ESPN. Just like that, he was hooked.

Everybody talks about how sponge-like a child’s brain is and that, even when it doesn’t look like they’re listening, they are. But I didn’t believe it until a few weeks ago when I popped out of the house to check on Adam who was shooting hoops on the driveway. I heard him talking and thought our neighbor’s boy had joined him. But when I saw him, he was alone. He didn’t see me so I crept closer to hear the details of his monologue.

“It’s Arkansas versus Missouri and Arkansas has the ball. They take it down the court. He shoot-ed the ball. Oh, it’s in and out. Arkansas comes up with the rebound so they have another shot at it. He shoot-ed again. He scores! And now Missouri goes down the court and it’s a race to the basket. He shoot-ed and he scores! It’s a close game. The score is 14 to 12, and here comes Arkansas again…”

The game went back and forth like this for several minutes with Adam playing every position on both teams. After the kids were in bed that night, I told Tom about Adam’s play-by-play commentary on the game inside his head. But I knew it was something he’d have to hear for himself to appreciate. Last weekend, he did. He came in the house, found me at the computer and said, “Adam’s doing it. That sports announcing thing you told me about. It’s hilarious. I’m going back outside to watch.”

But when he got there, he was spotted by the player/announcer who abruptly stopped the game. “Dad,” he said. “You can go back in the house now.” Apparently the game isn’t as good if there are witnesses in the land of make-believe.

“Can’t I watch the game?” Tom asked.

Adam paused for a long moment to consider the request. “Well, you can watch,” he said. “But you have to sit on the bench.”

“Okay,” Tom said. “Who’s winning the game? Arkansas or Missouri?”

In an exasperated tone, Adam said “Daaaad! That game is over already. This is a tournament. Now we’re playing Tennessee.”

But who could blame Dad? A 6-year-old’s imagination moves quicker than North Carolina’s point guard, and updates aren’t available on Sportscenter. The good news is that all of Adam’s teams made it to the Imagination Final Four and we can practically taste the national championship.

The great thing about sports is that when one is winding down to a close, the next is just getting started – a point driven home to me last Saturday on the way to Adam’s soccer game. Tom and I were driving separate cars to the game, and Adam was buckled into the backseat of mine. Nervous that he might be late, Adam began to channel his inner sportscaster:

“Well, Dad’s in pole position and we’re in second place. He’s a turn ahead of us but the light is green and Mom is coming up fast. Watch out for that caution flag. Let’s go racin’ boys!”

Looks like it’s going to be a long, action-packed spring. Game on.

Gwen Rockwood is a regionally syndicated columnist whose work has also appeared in the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series.

Drama for Mama: Grey’s Anatomy

greys.jpgThe writer’s strike lasted sooooo long that I nearly forgot how much I love a new episode of Grey’s Anatomy. But now it’s back in all its introspective, gory glory. Derek and Meredith have been broken up for five weeks now, in which time he has been on five dates with Nurse Rose. (But they have not “played doctor” yet, if ya know what I mean.) Meredith is obviously in agony as well as a huge case of denial.

During this episode, the residents were embroiled in a competition in which more complicated cases and procedures earned more points. It looked like Yang was a shoe-in to win when she helped a bear attack victim out of an SUV and ended up holding the guy’s large intestine in her hands. Meanwhile Meredith is focused on the guy who provoked the bear attack and becomes even more interested when he mentions that he married his “rebound girl.” When Meredith discovers that the guy’s unusual behavior is being triggered by an inoperable brain tumor, his new wife is crushed and Meredith wins the points contest as well as the right to bump any other resident out of the operating room so she can assist in surgery.

But I have a feeling that, deep down, Meredith is much more interested in bumping Rose out of the way. At the episode’s end, she approaches Derek and asks for his help in developing a clinical trial that might cure the kind of brain tumor that the bear attack victim has. In the final scene, we see her back on the therapist’s sofa and this time she starts talking. Hallelujah. It’s about time this girl started unpacking her emotional baggage.

Upcoming scenes show that Ava (Alex’s old flame) is back and she’s pregnant! Addison is back, too, and she wants to know why Meredith is letting McDreamy get away. Did I mention that I love this show?

Drama for Mama: American Idol Elimination Night

amer-idol.jpgTonight was a shocker, and it reminded me that American Idol results are often heavily influenced by demographics. Carly Smithson, the Irish girl sporting an arm-length tattoo, was eliminated. She’s one of the best singers of the remaining contestants and had an outstanding performance Tuesday night. As predicted on yesterday’s update, Brooke White, who forgot the lyrics and started her song over, was saved by a swell of empathy votes. I thought Jason Castro would be eliminated, but I forgot just how many teenage girls out there – who have surely fallen in love with his perfect teeth and dreamy blue eyes – are probably calling or texting that voting hotline about a zillion times a night on his behalf.

Carly, on the other hand, suffered from the fact that teenage boys won’t usually invest that much time on the phone for anyone – especially an older, married Irish woman. But no worries. Carly will surely be snapped up by some smart record label. She’s got raw talent and a voice America will likely want to hear more of.

Next week: Neil Diamond coaches the kids. Stay tuned!

A Girl and Her Dog

My poodle is a constant source of amusement. I figure she doesn’t do any work around the house, but I do have the option of clapping my hands together briskly and saying “Amuse me!” with good results.

Take tonight. I was looking forward to sliding between my favorite, amber-colored, silky sheets to continue reading The Ten Year Nap (review coming soon!). But when I fluffed my pillows in anticipation of leaning against them for support, I found a muddied package of cheese crackers hidden underneath. The poodle dog had apparently buried the crackers, then raised them to be placed under my pillow as what? A bedtime snack for the mommy master? A new burial ground? Amusing, yet also maddening, as I had just changed the sheets.

Last week she was having a conniption in my office and I went in to chastise her. Then I saw the reason she was barking to wake the dead: a well-fed squirrel was tormenting her from the outside. He was spread-eagle on the screen outside, just staring at her with those beady eyes. I believe the squirrel’s steady gaze said, in essence: “Bite me.”

Of course, there are those not so amusing times.

Just yesterday I saw her coughing like an asthmatic grandfather out back and when I inspected the contents, found something unusual. Have you ever heard of a dog coughing up a hairball? Well, my dog did. She’d just been groomed and had apparently licked off so much excess hair it formed a giant choking ball (actually it was sort of oblong) in her gut. Beautiful.

The truth is, I’m very attached to this dog.

My husband often takes one look at me and Bij and rolls his eyes. “You and that dog…” he intones, trailing off, leaving unsaid, “You are embarrassingly devoted.” I have to admit we like each other very much. I think it’s best explained by noting that I was never allowed to have pets in the house growing up. I did sneak a few kittens into my bedroom (there’s photographic proof in one case as my cat, Peaches, is seen wearing a tiny embroidered doll hat).

So until now I’d never had a dog to hold court at the foot of my bed or patiently wait outside the bathroom door while I showered or beg me with her big, brown eyes to let her out to potty already!

I know I’m not the only pet lover in Northwest Arkansas. In fact, there’s a new magazine in town devoted entirely to our furry friends called ArkanPaws. The tagline for the magazine is cute: For Pets and their People.

Anyway, I stumbled upon their premier issue yesterday at The Fringe Benefit when I stopped in for an eyebrow wax.

I promptly called the publisher and president of the magazine, Leslie Ray, and chatted with her about our mutual affection for dogs. Leslie also owns Angel Pet Sitters (they come out to your house to take care of the fur babies while you’re at work or away) and is also the co-founder of the nonprofit For Pets’ Sake, which is featured in the magazine. For Pets’ Sake has a program called “Best Friends” that offers assistance to senior citizens who may need extra money to help take care of their beloved pets. The organization also provides discount micro-chip clinics for the public and, among other things, educates elementary children on animal safety and welfare.

Leslie, the mother of three children and three dogs, said she wants the magazine itself to be educational and entertaining as well as offer an outlet to the pet industry. A former graphic designer, Leslie plans to use cover art by local artists and photographers.

If you’re looking for the small magazine around town, you’ll know it’s the spring issue of ArkanPaws by the painted assortment of cute cats and dashing dogs on the cover, the work of nationally-known pet artist Linda Picken of Bentonville.

Note to cat and dog owners: For Pets’ Sake is sponsoring a discount micro-chip clinic tomorrow (Saturday, April 26), from 9 a.m. to noon at the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market.