Last year, I took the kids to Miami's Jungle Island near Miami Beach. Rob wasn't able to go, having had appointments at the VA all day. We bought annual passes for the five of us at the time, but due to various illnesses and scheduling conflicts, we had not been able to go since. On Saturday night, I found our passes and realized we only had ONE more day left to use them! Pneumonia or no, I wasn't going to waste the opportunity for another fun day at an amazing venue.
Since we had all already been, I didn't take a ton of pictures of the critters. Instead, I tried to focus my lens on the fam and take interesting pictures of other stuff.
This is a Florida gator, but have you heard the news that the Nile crocodile is here in our state? Not. Good. News.
We didn't spot on an any actual "sausages" on the tree in front of us, but all of us found the idea of this tree trés amusing.
Rob loved that the parrots and other birds were right up close and touchable in their environment here.
We attempted to feed the large koi in the ponds, but they seemed not to be terribly hungry.
Being a Miami Hurricane, I have a special place in my heart for our mascot, the ibis.
The dorsal sides of my four favorite people in the world
We crossed paths with quite a few large iguanas.
Sophia loves birds and declares frequently that she wants to keep a parrot when she's older. My friend Cyndi has promised her an African Gray at some point!
I could just watch my children all day. I suspect many mothers feel this way about their babies.
Reptiles doing what reptiles will: basking in the sunlight
The highlight of our last visit, certainly, was something few people will ever experience in their lives: hands-on action with rare Black and White, and Red-Ruffed, Lemurs from Madagascar. We had one more ticket for Robert to go into their habitat, which is why I felt it was imperative not to waste our season passes!
Rob sitting, waiting for the lemurs to come out of their cage, reminded me of when we'd be sleeping and the Littles would wake up early in the morning. Especially on Christmas. Holy cow.
Rob seemed to love the lemur experience as much as the rest of is did. Also, he kept talking about how he was scent-marked by one for the rest of the day.
The rare, exotic jungle bunny
A rare, exotic smile from Jack
We also thoroughly enjoyed the bird show at Jungle Island, so we made sure to take Daddy to see that yesterday, also.
This little guy was hoisting the American flag, to thunderous applause.
A few of the birds who visited us at the show in the Parrot Bowl
My friend, here, came right up close to me in his cage and let me take about a dozen pictures, mere inches from his red head.
Just like last time we visited, the 'roos were pretty hot and lethargic, doing not much more than lying around in the shade. I didn't blame them, as I was starting to overheat, myself.
I was able to get a few close-ups with this kangaroo before we left, however, and I wish we'd had the opportunity to see some boxing. No one volunteered to be a target, surprisingly!
Languid large leopard, and a liger
As we exited the park, before I passed out from heat exhaustion, we were greeted by this beautiful flamingo-filled scene.
If you're an animal lover like all of Team Odette are, Jungle Island in Miami is a must-see. It's an experience you won't soon forget.
Picture it: End of March or early April, 1984. I'm seven years old, and it's just before my mother died. I had no idea she was sick; maybe she did, maybe she didn't know either. I just knew my sister and I were playing in the basement, and we became hungry.
Mom offered the usual choices, but nothing seemed satisfactory. Then she offered something new: tapioca pudding.
I had never heard of it before! I was skeptical, but willing. She began to make it. It was from a box, probably Jell-O or something, but who cares? She thought we'd like it.
Since it's the last thing I can remember eating before my mother died, I kind of put it and everything else related to that that I loved, on a pedestal. I keep tapioca pudding in a special place, and I don't remember eating it since.
Until now. I'm in the hospital with a nasty case of mycoplasma pneumonia. It's the middle of the night, and since I have to eat small meals throughout the day, I became hungry.
I asked the nurse for something - anything - to eat. She scavenged and brought me this small cup of tapioca pudding, saying "It's all I have."
Well. I'm alone, it's after midnight, and I'm starving. I decided to climb that pedestal and eat the tapioca once again.
It was good. No, grand. Maybe the best thing I've eaten all day! But even better, I was privileged to go back to that 1984 place in my mother's kitchen, clinging to her apron, waiting to try this new food.
That's a special memory for me. It's one of the few I'm lucky to have. I'm going to savor it for awhile yet.
And maybe when I bust outta this place, I'll make some for my kids. From a box. In an apron. What the hell?
So I'm not quite going to be "wordless" today, because I never am. You guys know.
Our Sophia, 11, has been taking horse riding lessons at Miami International Riding Club for eight months. This weekend, she will be exhibiting her skills at her first equestrian show. The first things she needed were some bows! These were just the beginning; when I say that I got to work making bows, I got to work, y'all!
Sophia takes English riding lessons, and she will be riding Hunters on Saturday and Sunday. We finally pulled her show clothes together, with some help from friends, and... ta-da!
Sophia and Anne-Marie, one of the showjumping instructors at Miami International Riding Club
For the first time, Sophie riding Buddy in her show clothes:
She's looking beautiful for her first show, no? Dani, her team instructor, Anne-Marie, and Celia at MIRC: We hope to make you proud, no matter the outcome!
Rob and Sophie giving a little lovin' to Argentina on the way out of the stables Tuesday
Feeling a little wordless - or like me, eh, somewhat more verbose - today? Make sure you link up with Create With Joy this week! She's sharing a wonderful set of photos of her Maine Coon cat, Magellan, and a fun new habitat we might join her in making for our Maine Coon, Pepper, too! (Or Muffin, or Sugarplum, or Henry...)
Hey, y'all! I took a bit of a bloggy break while some shizzy was going down around here. Everything's fine, it was more like everyone got this yucky virus, I didn't feel well (still/again), and blah. Boring, nothing exciting.
ANYway, link up here if you're playing along this weekend!
1) Gamal Lewis got the nickname "LunchMoney" in 10th grade because of his round cheeks and because lunch was his favorite part of the school day. What do you recall about lunchtime in the school cafeteria?
First of all, I love that this song was chosen for the week's meme. LML is so fun! About lunchtime in school... I remember that I never bought lunch; I always brought it from home. And I always begged everyone's Lay's potato chips off of them. I loved chips.
2) His father and uncle were members of the band Inner Circle. Their song, "Bad Boys" was the theme to the reality show Cops. What reality show have you seen recently?
I am the queen of TMI. I have said way too much, way too much!
2. Change one thing about the world. What would it be?
I'd make people stop being assholes for NO GOOD REASON. That pretty much sums up many things in one neat little package.
3. Live in any country/city, where would you choose?
4. What perfume do you wear?
I switch it up among several different JAFRA scents, but my favorite are these fruity / floral three that are meant to be blended in any way you want, or worn alone. I go through them entirely too fast.
5. How are you feeling right now?
Like my whole existence is flawed. In finally coming to have our 13-year-old son evaluated for Autism Spectrum Disorder, I'm realizing that not just Jack but I, too, almost certainly have Asperger's Syndrome. It's been quite a shocker. My world is upside-down. Did people not know? Which is possible, since I'm nearly 40 and am just now figuring it out... or did my parents suspect, but because of their religion, never took me to a doctor who might have figured it out? And coupled with the severe emotional abuse I suffered from my stepmother after my mom died... well, let's just say, I'm having quite a tough moment right now.
6. If money was no object, where would you move to?
1) The subject of this song is frankly sexual. Do you blush easily?
I do, always have, but I find I'm able to get away with more shenanigans without blushing now that I'm older. Since I'm pale and freckly, I'm very relieved about this. I couldn't get away with anything before!
2) Prince was his real first name (Prince Rogers, to be exact). Growing up, his relatives called him "Skipper." Do you have any nicknames within your family?
My dad called me "Joyous" in the early years, along with "Mellie-Ann." My older sister Stacey is the one who changed it to "Smellyann," when we were in middle school. I guess the joke was on her, though, because I thought it was funny, too!
3) Prince said he was "obsessed" with Mozart and read whatever he could find about the composer. What's the last book you read?
I can't read.
4) Between Prince and The Beach Boys, the Corvette is a much sung-about car. Tell us about your vehicle.
5) In the 1980s, when Prince was popular, MTV could turn a song into a hit. In 2016, where do you hear new music?
I pretty much listen to the radio 24/7. If I'm in the house, it's on my computer speakers. In the car, there. I almost never turn it off, except for Jeopardy!
6) In 1982, when "Little Red Corvette" ruled the airwaves, Braniff Airways shocked the travel industry and threw passengers into chaos by declaring bankruptcy. When did you last fly? Did your trip go smoothly?
I haven't flown since our November 2014 trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico. It was a great trip, and we saw lots of these silly monkeys!
7) 1982 is also the year Disney opened Epcot. Have you ever been to a Disney park?
I've been to Walt Disney World several times. I've never been to Disneyland in California, or any of the rest of the world's Disney parks.
8) 1982 is the year Cheers premiered. The sitcom was set in a bar where "everybody knows your name." Tell us about your favorite local bar or restaurant.
I don't really have one here in Miami, I guess. In Baldwinsville, New York, where I grew up, the local hangout was the B'ville Diner. Everyone went there. Everyone.
9) The 1980s were considered a high point in professional tennis, with Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe dominating the sport. Do you play tennis?
No, my serve is okay, but I hate running back and forth all over that court. I'd rather play volleyball...
Let me just say, YOU SHOULD READ THIS ONE if you read no other post of mine. I know it's kinda long. But please?
This is Chibbikins.
On Saturday, Sophia received a birthday card with a Walmart gift card in it, from her paternal grandfather and s-grandmother. As children are wont to do, she went a little berserkazoid trying to figure out what to spend her birthday money on. I mean, she was on her tablet saying, "Okay, Google. What can I get for $25 at Walmart?" Finding things like big packs of socks and underwear were unsatisfactory.
She thought about buying a pool with her money, but when I informed her it was too big to fit in the backyard, we had to abandon that short-lived idea.
We virtually walked all the aisles of Walmart.com and systematically rejected every idea there. She debated about a papasan chair - or a beanbag one - for a while, but nay. I don't know why. #BecauseSophia.
Finally, I decided to give her the cash in exchange for the card. Hell, I can always buy groceries.
The first thing she did was try to convince me to let her get a ferret.
Um, no. One, because she didn't have enough money. Two, we already had six pets (four cats and two dogs, thank you, and don't forget the occasional lizard or froggy who manages to get inside the house), and that is quite enough. Three, because ferrets are stinky, and I don't want to deal with that right now when staying on top of three litter boxes is already enough to drive me crazy.
The second thing Sophia wanted was to go to Robek's. I don't know if you've got a Robek's near you, but it's all healthy crunchy granola smoothies and bowls and other vegetarian goodness, which we love. Sophia loves to get a Polar Pineapple from there, and since I had a few bucks' worth of reward dollars from the app on my phone, we headed right over there and got her a PP. YUM!
I finally agreed to take Sophie to the local more-holistic-than-many pet store, and I said I would let her get a hamster. Or a gerbil. Whichever, as long as it was small and cute and fuzzy - long tail or no.
And so, we went to said pet store, and immediately, she said, "THAT ONE!"
We got a cage. We got a rolley-ball thing. We loaded up on bedding, food, treats, and wood-chewy thingies. I wanted more, but she was past her birthday money total. Note who wanted more!
And all the way home, I kept saying, "How do I let you talk me into these things? Yes, he's cute!"
That first night, Chibbi was the nonstop talk of our brood.
And he had unceasing attention from Paco (the Chihuahua). Less so, Otto the German Shepherd; more so, Muffin and Pepper and Henry and Sugarplum. The cats.
Oh, my gosh. I thought I would never sleep again. That cage got knocked off its place of honor (which would be my craft table, which Sophia unceremoniously cleared off in order to make room for Chibbikins' cage... #BecauseSophia) more times than I can count.
And then, Jack, my kid with the one-track mind, had a new-found fervent desire for a gerbil of his own.
A boy gerbil, so they don't mate.
A girl gerbil so they don't fight.
A boy! A girl! A boy! I don't know!
Either way, he had to do chores to earn this gerbil, and I meant it.
He did dishes. More dishes, and more dishes. (We go through a lot of dishes in this place.) He did laundry. And more, and more. (Second verse, same as the first.)
He swept the floors.
He walked the dogs.
He cleaned my bathroom. Listen, this kid Wanted. A. Gerbil.
He took a butter knife and cleaned the gunk off various tiles throughout our home.
I'm serious, y'all. Jack was relentless in his quest - and I didn't overpay him for anything, because I was in no hurry to add Gerbil #2!
He cleaned the whole foyer area, which was, eh, atrociously built-up with daily deposits from five people too lazy to put shit where it belongs.
He vacuumed the three air purifiers we have.
Finally, at six p.m. Tuesday, Jack had enough money to go get a gerbil.
Awesome. Fantastic. Let's GO. This kid had earned himself a gerbil, and now Mom was onboard with him getting one. And we already had a second cage for her - a girl, it was decided, was the gerbil for him - but that's a story for another day.
For heaven's sake, do you know how hard it is to find a female gerbil in this town when you are on a deadline? The stores all close at 9 PM in Homestead, I swear, and it was imperative to me that I not let this hardworking kid down!
We went to the more-holistic pet store. One male gerbil. Nope, no thank you, next!
We went to Petco, where the pets go, but where I try not to go because (text omitted to avoid being sued). No gerbils. And they would have been $10 more if they even did have them. Pffft.
There were tears and lip quivers. Jack was upset, too!
And now, I was on a serious mission. It was after 7 PM. I had other errands to run, too! One of them was right next door, so while we raced over there, I called Robert and barked orders which were essentially thus: "Call every pet store from here to kingdom come and find out if they have a girl gerbil. And how much. And what time they close, if they do." He knew better than to argue with me and basically said, "Okay. Bye!"
I'll spare you the details... okay, no I won't, #BecauseMelanie. Hey, I can be a hashtag, too!
Here's what happened: However many calls in, Rob found a PetSmart in Kendall, 32 minutes away by the fastest route on Google Maps, with THREE female gerbils. I was there while he was on the phone with them. I was coaching him in the background: "What time do they close? (9 PM) How much are they? ($10.99) Have them hold one! (They have three.)
Gentlemen, when your wife tells you to send out the gerbil alert and have them HOLD A GERBIL, you ask them to hold a freakin' gerbil, m'kay?
Rob felt assured that since they had three girls, we'd be arrright.
Chloë, Jack and I jumped back in the car. (Chloë was coming along for funsies. She wants a guinea pig. Sure, kid, but that'll be a hundred bucks minimum for critter and accoutrement and will have to wait awhile longer.)
When we got to PetSmart in Kendall, we rushed inside and skidded around looking for the Small Animals department.
My heart stopped, people. I don't mean it figuratively. I mean it literally. My heart actually stopped. My jaw dropped to the floor (figuratively that time; I'm not a freakin' snake). I think I said something exclamatory and possibly language-y, but God knows what.
Jack was crushed. Absolutely crushed. We looked at all the cages. Mouse. Rat. Hamster. Mouse. Some other thing. MOUSE! But no Gerbils. "Maybe I'll just get a mouse."
"Maybe a hamster..."
"Hang on, Jack. Just... hang on. Let me find someone."
I found someone, two rows over. "Do you work in the Small Animals department?" "Well, kind of." "Good enough." I explained the situation. I remember saying, "I'm pissed right now!" He hesitated, looked at my determined jaw, and said, "Let me check in New Arrivals in the back."
I started calling Robert to give him the what-for about not having a gerbil held. A girl gerbil. I hung up right when he answered, because Semi-Small Animals Gent returned and said, "We have two in the back. I don't know what the sexes are. Follow me."
I think that is when my heart finally started beating again, you guys.
It turns out, the Definitely-Small Animals Young Lady who took my husband's call had a guy come in and say, "I'm here for a gerbil." Since Rob never gave his name or had one held, she assumed this was the guy from the phone! So, she got him his gerbil.
How we got lucky and had her decide, hmm, maybe not, and take the other two little gerbil girlies to the back must have been Divine Intervention, I dunno, but she did.
I was just about to point to one gerbil and say, "That one's cute!" when Jack pointed to the other one. "THAT ONE!"
And so, we had miss Lucy.
Before we left the store - and I brought Definitely-Small Animals Young Lady in on the act just in case Rob called back - I called him back. I said they had no gerbils and no, I did not read him the riot act. I just said I was pissed and Jack was very upset. I might have hung up on him, but I promise, honey, this time, I didn't do it on purpose!
We got Lucy in her little travel-home box and, well, we traveled home! Jack talked nonstop about her. I could tell he was happy. I was happy. Chloë was happy. It was a much faster trip home than the agonizingly-long half-hour drive to Kendall.
I walked in the door first and said hello to Rob, who was waiting on the couch. "I'm sorry," he began.
Chloë walked in and just ... pretended to be a grouchy teenager.
Jack walked in with his box, his uncontrollably giant smile, and shouted, "SURPRISE! I GOT A RAT INSTEAD!"
Rob asked, "What? You got a rat? Let me see it!" and lo, and behold, it was a gerbil.
A girl gerbil. Named Lucy.
And he was not mad at me. Behold, he was very glad. #BecauseJack