My wee, tiny little baby, Chloë Raine, is no more. She's a full-grown twelve-year-old, which is unreal. UNREAL. Twelve years? Really?! How did that happen? I can't believe it's been so long since Rob and I checked into the Pensacola Ronald McDonald House post-Caesarian section, so we could be near the NICU where Chloë stayed for what seemed like an eternity. (In reality, it was a stressful but relatively-brief ten days.)
Okay, so she's still tiny, but you know what I mean. I took her to the pediatrician the other day, where she weighed less than 50 pounds. She still wears a size 6-7 (girls, not juniors), whereas her 8-year-old sister, Sophia, is in a size 8-10. Small in stature though she may be, Chloë is huge on personality. We love her to death and would go to the ends of the earth for her. So, here's to Chloë!
Chloë's 12th birthday was the day before my 37th, this past September 7th and 8th. Essentially, since we share a birthday, that means more freebies for her. If you've read here a while, you may remember that we sign up for all the birthday freebies we can, and then go around and redeem them for a fun traveling birthday celebration. Call us cheap, but it's super enjoyable and a great time for everybody.
I wanted to do something fun and different for her birthday cake this year, and I didn't have a whole lot of money or time, so this is what I did. Cupcake cones! I had planned to put ice cream in the bottom of the cones for extra yumminess, but after the first cone broke to bits in the process - and realizing I had no freezer space to store a dozen cones upright - I aborted that mission. Still, these were simple and fun to make, and Chloë squealed with delight when she saw them. WIN!
We had lots of places to go on her birthday Saturday, so because I was afraid our five stinkin' cats would get up on the counter and knock the cones all over the place, we did her 'cake' and candles first thing in the morning. Strange but fun! We only had eight candles, so I had to relight four of them, but she didn't care. I had done them six times for Rob's 41st birthday the prior week, after all!
Our first stop was to pick up a boneless chicken meal from a KFC here in Homestead. Okay, okay, so this wasn't technically a freebie, but $2.99 for a two-piece meal with side and a biscuit. She absolutely loves their mac & cheese, so call this one a worthwhile splurge.
And how cute does she look in that dress?
Our next stop was at the Buffalo Wild Wings up the road in Pinecrest or somewhere. I'm not sure exactly, but you can Google it. ;) Chloë had a free dessert coming, so we all went in to share it with her. Jack was being a huge butthead, though, so he and Rob went out to sit in the car while Sophia stayed with her big sister. The conversation with the wait staff was funny. "No, we don't need any menus, thanks." "Nope, no drinks for us." "Yes, that's really all." Apparently they don't get a lot of cheap bastards at BWW? Lucky for me, the 'Canes vs. Florida game was on half the screens, so I watched football while the girls chowed down... (We won. Go U!)
I do leave a tip even when we don't have a bill, in case you're wondering just how cheap we are. No worries there, chill.
We girls ran into the mall to go to an Auntie Anne's for her free pretzel, but we were refused. I was so mad! The email clearly stated I could show the coupon on my mobile phone instead of printing it out, so I opted to do that to save some paper and ink, you know? "Well, we've never seen this coupon on a phone before, so we can't take it." Seriously? I replied, "Well, you just lost my business. C'mon girls," and walked off. Honestly, people, it's 2013. Get with the program.
I pulled out a couple of pennies and let them make a wish at the fountain. They probably wished for me not to be such am embarrassing mom. Right?
There were a fire truck and ambulance outside the mall on our way back to the van, since it was National Safety Week or something. Of course, I saw a fun photo op for the lady-babies, and they climbed aboard. Woo-woo-woo!
Sophia said she wanted to be a firefighter, until she put that big ol' helmet on her head. Now she's reconsidering. Wait 'til she sees how heavy the rest of the uniform is!
The dude at the ambulance was befuddled when I asked if the girls could sit up in the back of the bus for a picture. Huh? Isn't that what you're here for? No one else was checking them out, so maybe not. Maybe they had a stretcher in the mall and were waiting to transport a patient? But they let us take our little Instagram, so I guess not.
We went to the Chuck E. Cheese in Cutler Bay after that. Not a birthday freebie, since she's aged out of that and several others, but I printed out some certificates off the CEC website for 10 free tokens for each of my kiddos. I just had to buy a small drink to redeem them, which was worth it for the fun I knew they'd have. I tracked Jack around the arcade, while Rob stayed with the girls and collected everyone's tickets.
Holy crap. Number one, remind me that we are homeschoolers and can go on a Tuesday morning at 11 AM if we want to. We do not need to be there on a rainy Saturday afternoon with half the county. Holy shit.
Number two, I totally called their safety hotline to report two (what seemed to me) major issues: Chuck E. came out and held court with the entire restaurant denizens - except for us, as we were in the long ticket-redemption line - right smack in front of the exit. With 50+ people blocking the doors, that had to be a fire hazard. Really?
Number three, the girl who was supposed to be shining her black light on wrists at the door to keep kiddos from escaping (or worse) was the only person not there during Chuck E.'s big door blockage. I stood there and watched a toddler run out through the gate and head for the front door, with no one there to stop her. Her daddy came running and grabbed her, yanking her back inside the restaurant, before the worker strolled over from the depths of the restaurant interior. Scary! And not cool.
Call me a worry-wart or whatever you will, but I have no plans to revisit Chuck E. Cheese anytime soon. And it's not just that location. Last time we were at CEC, in Virginia Beach, we almost came to a fist fight with another family, the so-called adults of which allowed their ginormous children to trample ours. Sorry, but I do not put up with that crap and called them on it.
After that, we headed to a mall called The Falls to redeem three separate $5 gift certificates to Build-A-Bear Workshop. One was for Chloë's birthday, one was for mine, and one was for our anniversary of signing up for their e-club. All three kids, therefore, had five bucks to spend in the store. And not a penny more, we made it clear - about eleventy billion times, because they kept wanting to stuff a $40 animal. Uh, no.
Chloë and Sophia had no trouble finding $5 accesories to spend their gift cards on, but Jack, as usual, was as indecisive as a gigolo in the red light district. He bitched and moaned about the five-dollar spending cap, and ultimately decided that he wasn't going to use his money at all. So Rob and I implored him, instead, to give his big sis a gift with it for her birthday. He begrudgingly picked out a Hello Kitty purse she'd been toying with getting, rolled his eyes, and snarked, "Happy birthday, Chloë," when he handed it over.
Ah, the love.
(The three of them are usually much nicer and more loving to each other, swears.)
Next, we headed up to Coral Gables to get her free ice cream cone from the Ben & Jerry's shop downtown. A police officer on a segway kept passing by our van and looking at me, and I could tell he was checking me out. Just kidding. He was probably investiging our Virginia tags or our cracked windshield... but no ticket was administered, so phew! Chloë decided on Mango Sorbet (ick) and posed for her requisite iphoneography.
After that, we drove up and down the Gables' Miracle Mile looking for a certain bakery. I couldn't remember the name of it for the life of me, but I was certain I knew where it was. Siri was no help, either. I had picked up a couple of chocolate mousse cupcakes for my pal Marc's birthday-slash-Rosh Hashanah the week before, and he was dying for another taste. Would I please pick them up a couple more, and a business card?
It took me no fewer than 45 minutes to find Ricky's Bakery, but apparently it was worth it to Marc, so I did it happily! They don't speak any English in the shop, and I picked up a take-out menu for Marc (no cards were in sight) and asked them, in my halting Spanish, to point out the chocolate mousse treats on the menu, so I could circle them for Marc to show if he returned on his own. Of course, that was one of the few things not on the menu, so my friend is out of luck, I'm afraid.
Before we headed over to Marc and Jenna's house with their mousse cakes, we had two more quick stops on the Miracle Mile to make. Chloë picked out a free, huge chocolate chip cookie from the Barnes & Noble Café. She'd had so many fun, free treats so far, she decided to split it in half and give each to Sophia and Jack. Sweet girl, she is.
And then, we stopped at California Pizza Kitchen for the free dessert of her choice. I had to real-quicklike download the CPK app on my iPhone, because they couldn't look up our freebie on my rewards account by my phone number. Be aware! She chose the Chocolate Soufflé Cake. The guy taking her order asked if she wanted it a la mode. At first I said no, since we were taking it to-go, but then I thought to ask for it on the side to take to Marc's three-year-old twins, Jake and Addison. Well, it didn't occur to me that there would be an upcharge for the ice cream until I had to pay a couple bucks, so be aware of that, too, if you're broke-as-a-joke like us!
I hung around at Marc's house for over an hour, having delivered the goods and coming in for a quick chat with my friends. Marc's in a wheelchair, having become a quadriplegic in his early 20s, and I used to live with him back in my college days. I was his night nurse then, so I know a lot about his particular needs. He's not been feeling well lately, so a question about that and, in turn, Rob's current health crisis turned into an extended conversation about everything under the sun. I love the two of them and was just thrilled to hang for a short while!
Finally, it was late, so we headed back to Homestead. Our local Sonic was on the way, so I stopped there top pick up Chloë's free grilled cheese Wacky Pack for her birthday dinner. She had her drink and apple slices before we got to the house. She was stuffed by that point, so I totally snagged her sammich when we got home. Hey, Mom's gotta eat sometimes, too.
Panera was around the corner from Sonic, and upon seeing it, I remembered that I had a freebie coming for my birthday from there, too! Anything from the bakery case that I wanted, so I perused the drive-thru menu and settled upon a carrot cupcake for Rob. Little did he know he was going to get it, but since he'd just celebrated Birthday Number 41 and I can't really eat sweets, well, he became the lucky recipient.
On Sunday, my birthday, I slept almost the whoooole damned day. I needed it after having spent five days rushing back and forth to the University of Miami Hospital an hour from home to visit Rob! I finally woke up around 1800, just in time to shower and head to the 7 PM showing of Planes with Chloë for our free birthday movie down the road at Homestead's Flagship Cinema. We even got a free 40-oz soda, though I did splurge (wincing, natch) on nachos for my kid.
After the movie, we returned home to collect Rob and the Littles for more birthday fun. Our first stop was to Denny's, so I could collect my free Grand Slam. I ate none of it. Jack was again being a jerkface to his sister, so he and Rob - again - sat in the car while the girls scarfed down the meal. He's apparently having a hard time with anyone else having a birthday. (Marc suggested I videotape his entire next birthday to prove that he, too, gets showered with fun and love when it's his turn. I just might!)
We ran to Walmart after Denny's, so that Chloë could spend her gift card from her paternal grandfather and step-grandma. She decided to choose a Cleopatra Halloween costume for next month, and the remainder was spent on a small Barbie toy. At 12, she still loves to play Barbies with her younger sister, which is fine by me.
The subsequent trip to IHOP proved to be happier for Jack, who successfully scored the strawberry pancakes from my free Rooty Tooty Fresh 'n' Fruity meal. Finally, a smiling boy picture. You were beginning to think that never happened, weren't you?
Birthday freebies got put on hold from Monday through Wednesday evening, as I had to take Rob back into the hospital first thing in the morning on the 9th. He had the worst headache of his life, and since he'd been in intensive care with a cerebellar hemmorhage last week, I wasn't playing around. I called his neurosurgeon, told him that Rob's pain was so bad he was throwing up and crying, and was instructed to bring him right in to the UM Emergency Department. They admitted him back to the Neuro Intensive Care Unit right away for a heavy shock of steroids to reduce the cerebellar swelling and thus, the pain in his head. It worked, and he was released 2½ days later with more steroids to take. Indefinitely. Joy. (Should I sign him up for MLB?)
On the trip home from the hospital Wednesday afternoon, we must have hit a nail or something, because we were smack-dab in the middle of the Palmetto Expressway when we blew a tire. Greaaaat. I pulled off onto the Le Jeune road exit near Miami International Airport, so you can imagine the busyness of the lane. Nevertheless, I scooted all the way over the to right, leaving enough room for my fellow drivers to pass and get off the express.
So there was Rob, in the rain, fresh out of the hospital, with a brain tumor, changing my tire. I felt horrible for him, but grateful for the rest of us, because if it happened on the way to the hospital, I can't imagine what I would have done. Besides cry. Did I mention my phone was dead, and my brandy-new car charger stopped working? That kind of excitement, we don't really need, no, thank you!
While he was jacking up the van to put on the donut, a tow truck pulled up behind us, blocking ALL traffic. HONK! HONK! "MOVE!" the driver shouted. Um, okay, but you could have just passed us like everyone else figured out how to do. "Get outta the way!"
The guy turned out to be nice, if kind of fierce. He followed me off the exit, going no more than 4 MPH, while my blown tire went thump-thump-thump! on the rim. Rob was PISSED, because the tire that should have been able to be repaired for $28 was thusly thoroughly destroyed. We ended up having to replace it completely for five times as much. Not. Happy. We drove to Tire King in the Gables to find out that fine fact, where I snapped this photo of Jack, dead to the world.
On the way home, driving carefully on US-1 through all of southern Miami-Dade County, we swung into Toys 'R Us for Chloë to spend her birthday money from Aunt Stacey (my sister). She decided on two color-your-own bags for herself and Sophia, which of course infuriated her poor, left out little brother. He cried and cried, and there was nothing I could think of to do, other than assure him that he would never have spent his money on either of his sisters if the shoe were on the other foot. He had no choice but to agree, and that quieted him. Not an ideal situation, but I was unwilling to upset my birthday girl, so I let it go.
At the checkout, the cashier discovered we were celebrating a birthday, so she gave Chloë a balloon and a crown. So she's 12, whatevs. Fun is fun.
Once home, I decided Chloë and I should ride around our nearby streets and redeem the Homestead birthday freebies. Rob protested, because of the donut wheel, but I am a stubborn fool and wanted to be finished with the birthday business. So, we left him home with the Littles and headed out. Our first stop was Shakey's Pizza Parlor down the road, where she was given a free pizza and drink. I could have gotten a free buffet for my birthday, too, but they didn't have the buffet set up. Eh. No big deal.
We ran to Kohl's in the same plaza to spend a free $10 gift card I'd been sent in the mail. We picked over the entire store while she made up her mind what to buy, so I was stunned to find this huge Christmas display, in the middle of September. Too soon, people!
However, my chagrin didn't last too long, because I spotted a tree filled with beach-themed ornaments behind the one pictured above. I off-handedly suggested she buy one for herself and her siblings to celebrate their first Christmas in Miami, and Chloë jumped at the thought! The ball in the center is for her, and she gave the swordfish to Jack and the octopus to Sophia. They were thrilled she thought of them!
Chloë still had a birthday gift card from Grandma (my MIL) to spend, so we headed to Walmart once again. She carefully chose what to spend her money on, having promised Jack she'd get him a small LEGO set while they were cleaning garbage out of the van earlier. She selected that first! Then she picked out the nail and lip gloss sets, and a couple bottles of colored bubbles from the clearance section rounded out her selection. Satisfied, we headed for the register. Good job, Sis!
We had called Ruby Tuesday's from the 2o-items-or-less line at Walmart to order a pretzel cheeseburger for Rob and her two free gourmet cupcakes, having discovered they were closing in the very near future. We got there just in time and picked up the food from the bar, where I had to shoo Chloë to a distant table to avoid the discouraging glares from bar patrons...
Our last birthday stop of the night was once again Sonic, where I'd been given a free birthday CreamSlush. Of course, I couldn't have that either, so Chloë got that one, too. She chose an orange creamsicle, at my suggestion, and shared with her brother and sister when we returned home. I snuck in a sip, and oh, my, that thing was delish!
Our air conditioner went out last night, plus Rob's mom and dad helped us out with money for a new van tire, so we headed to Walmart yet again on Thursday. Here's Chloë - and Rob in the background - modeling a new shirt from Aunt Gail. Adorbs! It fit perfectly, too.
I had coupons for Driscoll berries and a box of SeaPak clams, so we got those and the filter, too. Sophia, who loves nothing more than a container of strawberries in her hands, posed for a picture with me while we waited for the tire to be mounted. Jack, meanwhile, was happy as a clam to watch the garage activity from the waiting room. The boy loves his cars!
Back at home, Sophia found the present Gail had sent to moi, which was a few bottles of fun textured nail polish and some nail decals. Apparently, on all her trips to coupon at the drugstores with her mom, Sophia had her eye on exactly this shade of Fuzzy Coat, so when she discovered it on my desk, she was practically beside herself with excitement. WIN, again! She insisted on painting her nails herself (can you tell?), but I drew the line at topping this with another, different variety of textured polish. Enough is enough, y'know? On the other hand, she is eight years old, so who cares? Maybe I should have let her...
And that, my friends, is the end of Birthday Season 2013. Maybe. I still have a $30 gift certificate for a meal at Benihana...
P.S. I did try to give Chloë an actual gift from us. I had gotten a sweet deal on an alarm clock radio for her to plug her Kindle Fire into, but imagine my disappointment when she opened it and it didn't work with hers! The kids each have a Fire HD, which apparently requires different plug-ins from the non-HD. Suck. Mommy FAIL.
P.P.S. I also gave her a book that I'd redeemed some Kellogg's Family Rewards points for, a tween-y book that was waiting for us at home on Wednesday night. She has already read through the entire book!