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Entries from January 2011

Weekly Steals And Deals

Today's deals were pretty rockin', especially Rite Aid. Read on to see how I got over $450 worth of merchandise for less than twenty bucks out of pocket!

If you really want to start doing the coupon thing, do what I do and be a faithful reader of Collin's blog, Hip 2 Save. I couldn't do it without her and her reader community!



Not a lot of deals in which I was interested at Wags this week, and several of the ones I was going to do didn't pan out. You've got to be prepared for that. Speaking of being prepared, always bring your ad to the store! I try to remember, but I forget more often than not. Today it bit me in the butt, because they didn't have ANY ads in the store, so I couldn't verify any of my deals. You'll find that when you go first thing on Sunday morning, like I did, they usually don't have the week's sales marked yet, so you need the ad to confirm you're buying the right things. I might go back later in the week, especially now that more deals have been posted on Hip2Save. We'll see.

Anyway. I babble. Let's see how I did:

The 12 rolls of Scott Naturals TP cost me 50¢ each (per roll, not per package). I'm trying VERY hard not to do disposable paper products, so I haven't had paper towels for months on end, but once in a while I need something like that. So, I snagged the deal ($5 for the package, minus $1 MQ, minus $1 SQ in the February coupon booklet available near the door, times two)

The Cottonelle wipes were a similar story. Not free or a money-maker, and also disposable, but I like those things. I've been eating a lot of pistachios lately, and... you do the math on that. Haha! They were $1.99/box with the in-ad SQ, and I had two 50¢/2 MQs, so I grabbed four for $1.74 each.

The Blink Tears eye drops were a $1 moneymaker (MM). They were on sale for $7.99 and gave me back an $8 RR coupon for next time, plus I had a $1 MQ. I actually had three $1 MQs, but I didn't feel like doing multiple transactions by that point. Maybe I'll get more this week.

The Jell-o puddings were on sale for 59¢ each with in-ad SQ, plus I had a 55¢/3 MQ. Good snack for the kids.

Did I really need all that chocolate? NO. But it's good for a treat now and then, so it's up on the way-high shelf in the pantry. Sophia scales the pantry shelves regularly, so we keep it locked! Anyway. The Butterfinger Snackerz were on sale for 39¢ with the in-ad SQ, plus I had six $1/2 MQs from, so it was a $1.32 MM for the 12.

The Russel Stover Chocolate Hearts were 29¢ on sale with the in-ad SQ. I bought 20. If you need a "filler" item, which I didn't, these would be great this week. The peanut butter ones are pretty good. I got those for me. The rest are for the kids. They like that marshmallow filling crap. Yuck.

Total value at Wags: $71.57 (according to my receipt). Total out of pocket: $13.86. Total RRs (Register Rewards) received back: $8. NET: $5.86 OOP for $71.57 worth of goods.



CVS had a few more deals for me than Wags this week. Here's what I got:

Four 12-packs of Coke cans (two regular for Rob, two Diet for me), on sale for $3 each. Combined with the three Honest Teas I bought Rob (on sale for $1.50, minus three 50¢ MQs printed from their website), I got back $5 ECBs for next time. (Check their ad to build your scenario, or see Hip 2 Save for more ideas.)

The three boxes of special K were supposed to be on sale 3/$10, I thought, but they rang up at $3.19 each. No complaints here. I had a BOGO MQ, another 70¢ MQ, and I got back $4 ECBs for next time. Total = 56¢ per box!

We needed milk, and I had two $1 MQs off milk with any Kellogg's cereal purchase, so I got two gallons for the kids for $2.69 each.

Dawn dish liquid was on sale for 97¢, and I had (5) 50¢ MQs, so 47¢ each.

The Aussie shampoo/conditioner were on sale 2/$5.97, I had a BOGO MQ, and I got back $2 ECB. Net was 49¢ per product. I've never tried Aussie before, so we'll see.

The Olay Body Wash was on sale for $6 (eek, who pays these prices, even on sale?!). I had a BOGO free Olay facial moisturizer MQ, a $2 MQ for the wash, and got back $2 ECB. So, $1 each. Much more like it. Still not free, but I like this stuff.

Physician's Formula make-up was on sale, giving out a $7 ECB for $10 worth of product. I made a killing here: The magic coupon machine (MCM) had given me a $10 SQ a couple weeks ago on Phs. Form. cosmetics, and it was due to expire. Lots of make-up is on clearance at the drug stores right now, so I found three powder foundations on sale for 75% off, making them ring up at $3.75 each. That works out to $11.25, minus the $10 SQ I had, minus the $7 ECB = $5.75 MM for some really good powder - AND it was in my shades (very fair)!

The rest of the purchases were semi-planned, in that I knew I would find good clearance sales, but I didn't know WHAT I would find or how they would match up with the MQs I had. I brought my coupon box with me for the first time EVER (always do that, too - you never what unadvertised sales you'll come across in situ) so I could spend some time and do my own match-ups:

I found four Revlon eyeshadow singles at 75% off, making them $1.25, and I had gotten a $5/2 Revlon cosmetics SW out of the MCM, so all four were free!! The CoverGIrl blushes were on clearance for $2.49, plus on sale BOGO 50% off, plus I had a $2.50/2 MQ, so they ended up at 62¢ apiece. (Remember not to buy stuff you wouldn't use or gift to a teenage friend or something.) The Rimmel nail polish was on clearance for $1.07, and I had a $1 MQ for any Rimmel cosmetic item. The MCM gave me a SQ for $1/2 CVS skincare items, and I found the hand sanitizers on sale $1.19 each, BOGO, so 10¢ each! And finally, the Goody ponytail holders - a hot commodity around here since the girls are always losing theirs - were on clearance for $1.74 each; I bought two.


Here's a close-up of the clearance items, so you know what stickers to look for, if you try it! I was going to do the same thing at Walgreens, but they shipped back all their clearanced makeup YESTERDAY! UGH!!!! Oh well, you snooze, you lose.

Total value at CVS: $172.85 (according to my receipt). Total out of pocket: $35.35. Total ECBs (Extra Care Bucks) received back: $20. NET: $15.35 OOP for $172.8 worth of goods.

Rite Aid


Rite Aid has some great deals this week, so my plan was to get there when the first Rite Aid opened at 0700. I didn't quite make it (0815), but it was still earlier enough that other deal-shoppers hadn't wiped out all the goods, and I was able to get everything I wanted, in every quantity I wanted. Score! Here's how I did:

- 2 boxes Raisin Bran on sale 2/$4.88, minus (2) $70¢ MQs = $1.74 each

- 2 Hormel Chili on sale 2/$3, minus $1/2 SQ from their Video Values (VV) website, minus 55¢/2 MQ, minus $1+UP reward = 23¢ each

- 2 Jif Peanut Butter on sale $1.99 each, minus $1/2 SQ (VV), minus (2) $1+UPs = 49¢ each

- 4 Russell Stover 3-oz sugar-free candy bags (going in my diabetic grandpa's care package this week!!) on sale 4/$5, minus $2+UP = 75¢ each

- 6 Edy's Grand ice cream cartons on sale $2.99 each, minus (6) $2+UPs, minus bonus $5+UP for buying $15+ worth of Edy's/Dreyer's products = 94¢ for all six!!!! (16¢ each)

- 8 Lay's Stax chips on sale $1 each, minus $1+UP for each = all FREE! (I may grab more later in the week if I can find 'em.)

- 2 Chex Mix on sale 2/$3, minus 50¢/2 MQ - $1+UP = 75¢ each (which is NOT a good deal comparatively, but my family loves this stuff)

- 5 Colgate toothpaste, on sale $2.99 each, minus (5) $1 MQs, minus (5) $2+UPs = all FREE (I got the Sensitive formula for my grandpa, so they'll all go in his package this week, too. He's going to laugh and tell me he can't use them up in this lifetime.... on second thought, maybe I'll just send two for now!)

- Afrin Nasal Spray, on sale $5.99, minus $3 MQ, minus $2 SQ (VV), minus $4+UP = $3 MM!!

- Coricidin 10 oz, on sale $5.99, minus $2 MQ, minus $2 SQ (VV), minus $4+UP = $2 MM!! (Do not keep this in the house if you have teenagers, if you don't need it. Lock it up, if you do.)

- 2 Clairol Perfect 10 haircolors, regularly $12, on 75%-off clearance for $3, minus (2) $3 MQs = both FREE!

- 2 Gillette Fusion ProGlide Power razors, on sale for $9.99 each, minus (2) $4 MQs, minus (2) $5+UPs = 99¢ each

-2 bags Halls cough drops (I got sugar-free for Grandpa), on sale 2/$3, minus $1/2 MQ, minus 50¢ SQ (VV), minus $1+UP = 25¢ each

- 4 24-ct Stayfree pads (well one was a bonus 32-ct size for same price & deal!), on sale $4.29 BOGO, minus (2) BOGO MQs = all FREE for my girls' growing stash! (good thing these don't go bad, since they're 5 and 9, eh?)

- 2 Purina Beggin' Strips treats + 2 Purina Busy Bones on sale for $2.99 each, minus (2) Buy-One Beggin', Get One Busy Bones free MQs, minus (2) $1 MQ for the Strips, minus (2) $1+UPs = 49¢ apiece (I bought these to donate to the SPCA for a Girl Scout benefit party coming up, although Jack's begging me to send these to Tiger Lily, our former pooch!)

Total value at Rite Aid: $206.92 (according to my receipt). Total out of pocket: $61.30. Total +UPs  received back: $63. NET: -$1.70 OOP for $206.92 worth of goods!!

So total for this week (so far) = $451.34 worth of goods for $19.51 OOP! Woohoo!!!


Sunday Stealing: The Ace Meme, Part Two

Sunday Stealing 

Here's your link, joiners!


Sure, I have. I went to Canada several times as a kid, but I lived in Central NY, so that was kind of a given. I've been to Mexico, Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Panama, Italy (and Sicily), Spain, France, Monaco, Greece, and Croatia. And if they count, the USVI, Puerto Rico, & Guam. I think that's it? For now...


Chocolate. Pizza - but GOOD pizza, like from a real New York-style pizzeria. None of this Domino's crap. And sexy black men. (Yes, I really did just say that. What of it?)


The first one I actually got a real, paper-in-hand paycheque for was as a cashier at a local grocery. I loved that job. My customers loved me. When I graduated high school and moved away, one of them bought me some lottery tickets. I didn't win a dime.


Yes. I confess I've done my share. I only do them when I have a really hilarious idea, though. Rob and I have done a few together, and we've laughed like fools for days afterward. Very mature couple, we are.


Yes, but I don't believe we're limited to only ONE. You just end up with the one (or two, or three) that you meet first, if you're lucky enough to do so.


Returning an email to a friend in Australia.


Yeah, I'm no stranger to anesthesia. Aside from dental surgeries, I've had two or three surgical LEEPs (Swagbucks it), three emergent c-sections, a hysterectomy (after the failed LEEPs), and gastric bypass. I'm hoping to top that off with a full body lift sometime this year.


My eyes, my smile, and, now that I've lost a couple hundred pounds, my changed physique.


Twice. And I really need them a third time, because you can't tell at all. I hate my teeth. My jaw is too small. I've had 8 or 10 teeth pulled and still need more yanked to get them permanently straight!


I'll be 35 in September, and I've told my husband what I want, but I can't post that here! You'll just have to use your imagination.


I want two kids. I've had four. Ha!


No, but I came this-close to being named Eleanor after my paternal grandmother. If I was a boy, I would have been named Clayton, after no one that I know of.


Arrogance. No one is better than anyone else. I don't care how hot you are, how much money you have, what kind of job you do, where you went to school, what you've done in your life, what kind of car you drive, what you eat, or where you shop. You're still no better than the rest of us.

Also, smoking. If a guy is drop-dead sexy, and then he lights up, he's dead to me.


I had an amazing group of friends, and I managed to get myself a stellar education.


Right now it's Aveeno Nourish something-or-other, but I switch frequently.


I do. I think I write very nicely.


Turkey Pastrami *licks lips*


Of course, we all have them. I'm self-indulgent, and that pretty much leads to all my problems.

And I have a potty mouth comparable to my Navy husband's - since long before he met me!


Not really. I can be, but if I really think about it, I just enjoy the attention of my friends and lover(s) and don't like it when someone else gets what I perceive to be my share.


I don't know. I'm obnoxious and a huge pain in the ass. Probably not. I'm better from a distance.


Do I agree with it? That's weird phrasing. If it works for you, hey. Go for it.


Studies show that people couple up with other people who have a similar degree of physical beauty, so yes, it would appear that looks do matter. To me, personality and intelligence matter more.


I yell and say a lot of bad words. I tried working on that in therapy, but we didn't get very far before I quit that therapist. I still need to find a new one...


At this point, if I lost 58 pounds, I'd be sickly-looking. Still, I'd rather lose the weight than gain even 5 pounds back!


To learn contentment, and to raise three happy, productive, and kind children.


It changed over the years. I loved my Pound Puppies and Cabbage Patch Kids - and do NOT call them "dolls"!


It says I have 321 contacts.


Hell-to-the-no. Even less so as a parent. Unfortunately, my kids enjoyed the big purple guy.


Does the Pope shit in the woods?


Mashed potatoes. With cheese, corn, and sautéed onions. And lots of butter. Do not even THINK about putting mayonnaise in my mashed potatoes. Gross. I am NOT a Southern girl.


A big d*ck, what else? BAHAHAHAHAHA, I'm so wrong.


Well, Smellyann, of course. Which came from Mellie-Ann, my dad's nickname for me. My friends dubbed me "Bubblehead" in high school. It was - and remains - appropriate.


I would give almost anything to be able to fly....


Saturday 9: What A Fool Believes


Link up here if you're playing along this weekend!

1. What celebrity do you think is the MOST foolish?

Anyone who doesn't realize the tremendously lucky hand they've been dealt and wastes it. It's hard to say, though, because it may look to us like they're squandering opportunities, but we don't know what's really going on, so... it's not for me to say.

2. What are 5 things you don't care about?

Germs. Having lots of purses and shoes. Forwarded emails, especially jokes, political diatribes, and "you've got to see these cute puppies/kittens/babies" ones. What I'm missing on TV since we haven't had service in the last year. Reasons you (might) hate having Obama as President.

3. What 'issue' do you think your opinion is so right about that you end up trying to sway others to your point of view?

Evolution. I seriously doubt the intelligence of anyone who doesn't believe in (which really means "understand") it. Best not to get me started!

4. What personality do you like to listen to on the radio?

This may sound silly, but Ryan Seacrest entertains me!

5. What culture are you fascinated by?

Honestly, all of them. I'm very into experiencing everything I can of others' cultures. It's what I loved most about living in Miami and Guam, and it's why I hope to get my children as well-traveled as possible.

6. You are alone with your lover's diary. What do you do?

Read that shit, duh! I'm guessing there would be few surprises, though.

7. What frustrates you?

Crying when I'm angry and blushing when I'm the center of attention. I hate being so obvious about my emotions. I'd suck at poker.

8. Do you remember the first time you were on the internet? What did you do first?

I do. It was 1994, and I was a freshman in college. Hard to believe how far we/I have come since then! The first thing I did was get my college email account and then send an "I'm online!" email to all my high school friends who were waiting for me! I was addicted immediately. I love the internet. Thanks, Al Gore!

9. What was the biggest fight you have ever had with someone?

Hm. That's a toughie. It depends on your definition of "big." Most violent? That would be when my ex-fiancé threw me into the bookshelf and broke my two front teeth. (Yes, I threw him out after that.) Most emotional? Hmm. I can think of a few of those, and they all involve cheating. Most yelling? Probably when I went off on my father for giving up his oldest daughter when she was eight years old - the fight happened after my son died. I was PISSED at him for that.

Anyway, happy Saturday!


Aloha Friday


Link up here if you're playing along today!

My question for you this week is:

Have you ever been the victim of a crime?

I'm asking because the 7-Eleven where I always go in the middle of the night - and almost went to at the time - just got robbed last night. I admit, it's gotten me a little freaked out, especially when I was in there just a few minutes ago!

I have been a victim of crime, more than once, but it's something I rarely talk about, and this isn't the post on which I want to discuss it, so... yeah.


A Quickie With Martha

It's been a pretty productive day for us, homeschool-wise. We tend to laze around in the morning, have lunch, and then school the rest of the day, past dinnertime. It's what works for us, and that's one of the wonderful freedoms afforded to us by homeschooling. We mostly worked on reading today, and the kids each did several pages out of their workbooks. That's another thing I like to do: rather than hop around from subject to subject like they do in public school, we can stick to one thing if we get engrossed in it, and spend the whole darn day doing it if we like. And we like.

Anyway, that's totally not what this post was about! While the kids and Daddy were having their dinner, I was looking around for my next "what do I fill my brief break with?" activity. You know what I mean, if you're a mom. If you have five minutes, you look for a five-minute project. Right? I mean, I suppose I could have thrown in a load of wash or tidied up the guest bathroom, but as usual, I chose to do a craft project.

I get several of Martha Stewart's daily tip emails, and I always look forward to them. I confess, I love that woman. When she was in jail, she was pretty near me, and I thought about going to visit her, even! My sister thinks that's hysterical. She can kiss my butt.

So this was today's craft project, and I thought, "Well, I could do that." I usually file the doable projects away in the back of my brain for a later time, but this one just stuck with me. Probably because I knew I had all the materials on hand already. During my dinnertime break, I rushed to grab all the supplies and try my hand at embossing some ribbon using stamps!


The first thing I did was practice on the extra length of velvet ribbon I had cut off from what I needed, and I quickly burned a hole through it. Whoops, my iron setting was too high. I moved it down three settings after burning a hole three times. Finally, "synthetic" worked. Yay.


Can you see it? It says "BIRD" and has three little birdies on it. Chloë ordered me to add an "s" since there were three, but I refused to do it just because she told me to. I'm stubborn like that.


I've had this keepsake box forever. I forget exactly where I got it from, to be honest, but it's been sitting around empty with my scapbooking stuff for years. It was just the right size for my length of ribbon. 


Of course, once I put the ribbon on it, I had to put something IN the box, so I chose to move the pile of Christmas pictures and special cards from friends and family into it. Yes, that'll do.

The whole thing took me about 10-15 minutes, including the part where I burned my ribbon onto the iron and said a few bad words. I messed up a few things, like putting the ribbon on the box backward and stamping the words backward on the back half of it, but it's cool. It was my first time, y'know? Next time, I'll know better what to do.

Try it, won't you?


Monday Steals & Deals

I'm going to try and keep it brief again this week, because I have SOOO much to do and actually want to try and sleep tonight! Some stores were better than others, and I could have done better overall than I did, but it was a good week. Thanks, as usual, go to Collin at Hip2Save for helping me put these awesome deals together - check out her amazing blog!


Walgreens - I rocked Wags this week! I got two 12" Red Baron pizzas, 2 boxes of Keebler Club crackers, 2 24-ct pkgs of Stayfree pads, a huge bottle of Crest ProHealth mouth rinse, 6 bottles of Maalox, 2 pints of Starbucks ice cream, 3 1-lb bags of Wonderful Pistachios, 6 bags of Chex Mix, 2 Toblerones, 3 Snickers bars, and a small toy for each of the kids for...


Well, they paid ME ten bucks to take it home!! Yeah, buddy. Read Collin's blog, seriously. (I would have been four more dollars ahead, but I forgot to hand over a few coupons. Dangit!!)



Target - a pretty good haul here, too, but more out of pocket. I bought (10) Healthy Choice frozen meals, (2) bags of Lindt truffles (hells yeah!), (4) boxes of Nature Valley granola bars, (2) bags of Party Mix cat treats, (1) bag of peanuts, (2) 10-ct boxes of Finish powerball tabs, another jar of Maaolox, (2) bags of Kraft shredded cheese, (2) pkgs of Oscar Mayer Deli-fresh meat, (4) Ortega taco seasoning envelopes, (2) bags of marshmallows, a Rimmel mascara, and a Rimmel nailpolish for...  $16.48. Not awesome, but not too bad.

CVS - This was okay but also not as fantastic as the Walgreens deals. I bought (5) 12-packs of Coke, (4) bottles of Welch's grape juice, (2) bottles of Xtra laundry detergent, (3) tubes of L'Oréal lip gloss, a 6-pack of Pediasure shakes, (1) box of Kashi GoLean Crunch, and (2) bottles of Crest ProHealth rinse.

For all that, I paid about $22. We drink a lot of Coke, though, so I stocked up a little. :)


Not a lot of deals at Rite Aid this week. For the above, I ended up making $8.74 in profit.

So overall for the four stores - all that stuff in the pictures above - I paid less than twenty dollars.

Pretty good. Pretty, pretty good.


Building A Legacy


Today was the annual Pinewood Derby race for my son's Cub Scout pack. The boys (Jack and Daddy) spent a lot of time last year on Jack's car, but this year it was rather rush-rush after the hustle and bustle of the holidays and then Rob's 8-day hospitalization. They made the car all in the past week, with Jack changing his mind about the design features several times in the process. We didn't have very high expectations for this year, after last year's First Place win in the Tiger Den! 

(And yes, I got on his case about what they were doing in the above picture!)



Last night, Rob took Jack to have the car weighed and impounded, as is the night-before custom. (The girls and I had some lovely time to ourselves, and we quite bonded, but that's for another time.)



This morning, none of our children wanted to get out of bed, after staying up super-late last night. Happily, we managed to make it to the church on time for the opening ceremony. Jack walked in the color guard - he's the one in the yellow neckerchief and mis-matched blue shoes above! So funny, he put on different shoes...



Cubmaster J, giving the announcements and rules update - isn't he a cutie??  Sadly, this is his last year with the pack, as his youngest son is moving up to Scouts soon. Rob was thinking about taking over the position, but he's relieved someone else stepped up for the job. Now he's thinking about what he'll do instead. (Meanwhile, I volunteered my services today as Treasurer, Awards .. uh, person, or Events Chair... we'll see what I end up doing, but I want to give Jack equal time in scouting).


After the opening, we moved upstairs to the room where the track was located, which is the same room where Jack's Wolf Den meets weekly. The Tigers had their races, and it was so cute to watch them in the same place where we were just last year. Soon, the Wolves were up. We had no idea what to expect from Jack's car, but lo and behold, it consistently came in first for each heat! That's his car with the red/black fade, above, in the lead.


After the six Wolf heats, the older boys started to race, so we went down the hall to do some crafts. I had brought my knitting, which I really need to finish for the intended recipient, so I asked Rob to be in charge of helping with the crafts. Jack went by himself in the next room to build the Twinkie car he was SOOO excited to make, while the rest of us sat in the room where they were making clothespin neckerchief slides. Here they are, just getting started... I don't have any more pictures of those activities, because I was busy knitting. Sorry.


One of my Daisy girls has an older brother in Jack's den, and their dad (another cutie!!) was busy being the computer tech guy for the races, so he asked me to look after G during the day. I was happy to; she's a little sweetheart. Here are the girls waiting to be let into the lunch hall for pizza and snacks. Little G was SO excited to have one of the doughnuts her daddy had brought!!


After lunch, Cubmaster J handed out the Popcorn sale awards to the pack. Jack earned himself a fishing pole, so he and Dad will be doing lots of that together come Spring. (Rob is an avid fisherman, though he hasn't had a chance to do a lot of it in our decade together.) Cubmaster's Webelos 2 son sold about $2700 in popcorn, so I quickly hit up his mother for tips for next year!!


We had already done the crafts, so after lunch, the kids got into the Derby poser thingy and had their pictures taken. 


Sophia had the next turn.


I barely remember taking this picture, so I have no idea what's up with Chloë's expression!


The races seemed to go much faster this year, and soon is was time to announce the winners for each den. When the Wolves were announced, we moved up front in time to see Jack declared the winner for his den. Woohoo!!


Cubmaster J handing Jack his participation ribbon and First Place trophy



Jack barely had the patience to sit and watch his car race today, but he was really excited to be getting another trophy!



After all the den winners were announced, the first- and second-place winners from each one raced against each other to see who won for the pack overall. There was one super-fast car on the tracks which couldn't have been beaten without a wreck, so we knew that First Place was out of reach for us. So, what would it be? In the end, Jack happily came in second for his pack!


For the next trophy picture, I couldn't get him to take his eyes off the prize for even a second! He was so excited.


Jack posing with his Wolf den leader, who's fantastic


I managed to snag a very busy cubmaster for another pic with the two trophies, and he asked me if he was going to be reading about this on my blog again this year. Uh, whoops - I always get so embarrassed when I find out people I know in real life, locally, have read it!! So here you go, J!


We helped clean up the church when the Derby was over, and then we took our happy boy home. He asked me if he could put his new trophies upstairs on his dresser, but I told him no way in h-e-double-hockey-sticks! Sophia would have them broken by bedtime. So they live on the mantel for now, where we can beam with pride at their growing collection. Now the boys have to get the car ready for Districts. Maybe this year, he'll have a chance! (Last year, his car broke.)

Go, Jack, go!


Sunday Stealing: The Ace Meme, Part One

Sunday Stealing 

Link up here if you're playing along with Bud and the gang today!


Let's see... I have burn scars on my legs from when I was 8 years old. My family was watching Porky's II, and my stepmother was frying chicken in the kitchen in the next room for my dad, who didn't want the pizza the rest of us were having. We got engrossed in the movie. The chicken caught on fire, and flames were shooting upward from the pan to the ceiling. My dad, not finding any baking soda, grabbed FLOUR instead. (stupid, don't EVER do that!) The pan burst into bigger flames, of course. He grabbed the pan and carried it past all of us in the living room, out to the garage. He didn't want to get grease on his precious cars, so he walked back into the living room to go out the front door instead. The pan handle started to get too hot, so he dropped the pan, splashing fiery-hot grease all over my oldest stepsister and me. She got all the attention for her burns, and while I was shrieking, they just kept telling me to shut up because they thought I was scared. No one realized I had been burned until much later. It was pretty traumatic for me. The scars (both physical and emotional) are mostly faded now, though.


I guess you're talking about my bedroom? We have an Asian-eclectic thing going on in our room. There is a koi fish print my SIL gave me for a birthday present, and a huge framed set of knick-knacks I gave my husband for an anniversary present. In that are the wooden fan I bought him in Guam, a set of special chopsticks, and a medallion my friend Nicole gave me for a present once. In the back of the frame, I have an envelope that stores the fortunes from fortune cookies for all the times we've eaten Chinese together. We had Chinese food on our first date, and that's in there (not the food but the fortune)! We also have a big oriental-style shelving unit/candle holder above our headboard at the bed.


I have snored badly my whole life, but I'm told it's much better now that I'm not fat anymore. (Although I still think I'm fat!) I don't grind my teeth, but I do clench my jaw. And I talk often in my sleep!


I listen to all different genres, but I'm NOT a fan of Country or Gangsta Rap. I confess I'm a big fan of pop music, especially from the 80s, although I often sit here and listen to classical while I work.


I don't have a clue in the planet, as my oldest kid would say, but I know it was a Wednesday. Yet another thing I have in common with my mini-me youngest child!


To be warm!!!


Summer... my grandfather in Florida... and being in Florida, for that matter! I miss my mother and son, who I know are together in heaven.


My rings from Hubs, my good yarns, my scrapbooks, and my iPhone!


I am a statuesque 5-foot-two.


No, I don't, but I do freak out when someone blocks my exit path, thanks to a series of traumatic events involving my evil stepmother. Please do not stand in the doorway when we are in a small room together!


Yes. I prefer the light to be on, even when I sleep. Used to drive my sister crazy whenever we had to share a room!


My dear grandfather. He has buried two of his three children, including my too-young mother, and we talked a great deal about the details involving his infant's son's death on the phone last night. He told me many things I hadn't known before. Since I have had to say good-bye to my own infant son, it's an unfortunate bond we share.


Losing another one of my children


I don't really have a preference for that, I don't think... What I do like are muscular arms!


I can't see myself ever proposing, but I have been engaged three times! Third time's a charm... ;)


Coffee, unless the energy drink is low-sugar.


Pineapple, mmmm


Honestly, I'm craving a hard-boiled egg!


something like this - the color of the sea


Only the ones by Pepperidge Farm!


A can of black olives, which was the traditional gift from my grandparents to my sister and me each Christmas. We each got one every year.


I can honestly, truthfully say I have a crush on my husband!




I'm not a person who cares about that. If it looks good, cool.


Eric Clapton *swoon*


Two kitties, Tinkerbell and Star. We'd have a zoo if we could, though!




Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.




Brunettes, baby! ;)


"Just put your pickle on the plate, College Boy, and leave the hard stuff to me."




Saturday 9: My Woman From Tokyo


Link up here if you're playing along this week!

1. Have you ever been to Japan? If not would you like to travel there?

No and absolutely, it's 2nd on my list of must-visits!

2. Have you ever played a game that required removal of clothing?

Heh. Yes, but I don't think I've done it since I played strip poker with my three sisters when I was under 10 years old!! Or maybe it wasn't poker... strip War??

3. Have you ever dated one of your best friends?

I'm married to my best friend. ♥

4. Have you ever kissed someone you didn't know?

Yes, and alcohol was involved each time!

5. What is your secret guaranteed weeping movie?

Steel Magnolias

6. What feature are you most insecure about?

Right now, my belly, although historically it's been my chin - or lack thereof!

7. What do you miss most about being young?

I don't. I actually LOVE getting older.

8. Who is the most annoying musical artist EVER?

I'll get flak for this, but I can't stand Stevie Nicks' voice!

9. Have you ever applied for a job that was an internet hoax, asking for credit history and your social security number?

Uhh.. no... Run out of ideas for questions, Sam??




I make my kids sleep in closets. It's true. Okay, no it's not. They concocted this plan to "play sleep" in the closet in our first hotel of the trip in Richmond... only they actually did fall asleep! It was pretty cute. By morning, they had each moved out of the closet one-by-one, to the bed. Little wonder. They certainly were cramped in there.

We moved on up the road to Hershey from Richmond, with Diet Coke in my cup and Tinkerbell and the Great Fairy Rescue in the kids' DVD player.


They definitely saved the best for last for this round of resort shops. Our suite was huge and very, very nice. The kids were "wow"ing all over the place, and I have to admit, I was quite impressed myself. They earned top marks from me, that's for sure! 



The master bedroom I so enjoyed... but I was lonely, so I usually had a kid or three in there with me!


The kids' room, wherein they watched entirely too much TV when they were supposed to be sleeping!


Seriously, the size of this place rivals our own home, not to mention the, well, the CLEAN. The kids took care of that part lickety-split, but not without frequent motherly admonishments to keep it clean!


The huge tub in the master bath saw a LOT of use for those nights we spent in Hershey. Ah, so nice. I am not a bath person, but evenspent a couple-four hours in there, total! As soon as the kids saw it on the first night, they shucked their clothes and hopped in. Unlike me, they love a soak in a tub as much as one possibly can! 

Pa trip 027

On that PA trip, I had lots of pizza mystery shops to do, and those, like the resort evaluations, require lots of pictures. Unfortunately, I had left the cord for my camera at the hotel in Richmond. Eek! So, before getting that night's pizza, I had to round up the progeny and make a trek to the nearby Staples for a card-reader for the kids' laptop that I always borrow on trips. (Well, I did, before Sophia dropped it. Now we need a new one. Farg.) Anyway, I had a BlockBuster gift card in my wallet that I had won two years earlier at least, and there was a BB next to the Staples, so yeah. Put two and two together.

We picked up a couple previously-watched DVDs for the kids' collection for cheap, and I got a humongo lollipop for each of them, since they definitely do not get enough sugar in their diets. (Snork)

Fortunately-unfortunately, I put the lollies on top of the fridge for the night, so they wouldn't sneak out and eat the whole thing, and we forgot all about them until after we'd checked out. Probably saved 'em a few cavities, anyway!

Pa trip 029

After their snack and a movie, they hopped back in the tub for the second time that first night! The jets were a huge hit.

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Of course, since each suite has a full kitchen, I brought a bunch of groceries from home to save money. I put in a couple boxes of Jell-o and a few cans of mandarin oranges, so I made some right away when we checked into our suite. This made for a nice bedtime snack for the kiddos... and this picture definitely warms my heart after all the animosity between these two just a few short months ago!

Pa trip 038

After sleeping in much too late, we headed to my friend C's house to visit with her, her six children, and Tiger Lily. C's family are the ones who adopted Lily after we determined we could not afford to properly care for her anymore this past summer, so the kids were definitely excited to be able to see her again. Jack and Lily "write" back and forth to each other still, and they often express their sadness that she is no longer with us. 

PA trip

Seeing Tiger Lily was fab. She was confused at first about who was her master - and where was Rob, anyway? - but she behaved well and looked fantastic. She's got a few health problems now that she's getting on in years, and it makes me sad not to be able to be the ones to take care of her into her old age. I'm so very grateful she's in good hands, though, and I know it was the right thing to do for our old girl.


While C watched Sophia and Jack, she sent Chloë and me down the road to a neat couple of shops that sold all manner of notions and antique things and what-not. Kind of hard to describe. The first shop was more of a craft shop, and I so enjoyed looking at all the wonderfully-laid out displays of real wool felt, old buttons, vintage fabrics and ribbons, and so much more. I didn't have much to spend, but in the end I picked out three old buttons and three old lengths of ribbon. I'll use the buttons in my knitting, and I had planned to put the ribbons in the girls' hair - which I did - but it's a bit stiff for that. I'll probably use the rest to decorate packages, I don't know.

Pa trip 058

My goal in the antique shop next door was to find some candles for soaking in the tub back at the resort. I was successful in that end, and I also found these candy sticks in every different flavor for pennies apiece. I picked one up for each of C's and my kids - including her baby girl, because I wasn't thinking straight, clearly!

  PA trip

The kids had a blast for the remainder of our time at C's house, petting Lily, making friends with the outdoor kitties, and chasing the poor chickens all over the place! I'm insanely jealous of their chicken-keeping, and I would give anything to be able to raise some chickens of our own. When we move from this place, that's definitely going to be a high priority for us. Rob wants goats, too. Jack wants a llama or something. Um. No. Well, maybe. Who knows.

PA trip (2)

Of course, we were in Hershey, so we had to visit Chocolate World for a tour. We must have done the free tour three times, so they could get a chocolate sample at the end! I was basically along for the ride for this one, as they tore from one end to the other to see all there was to see before the place closed in a couple of hours. We made the most of it and had a huge blast. Definitely a place worth visiting if you're ever in town!

 PA trip

The Make Your Own Chocolate Bar exhibit at Chocolate World was a must-do. It was a bit of a splurge for us, but it turned out to be really worthwhile. The kids had SOOO much fun selecting the candy fillings and toppings and making their custom wrappers. If you're going to do an "extra" there, definitely do this one!

Pa trip 121

Jack's bar was done first, and he was so proud of his minimalist wrapper. "When can we eat 'em, Mom??!!!"


Pa trip 122

Silly girl. Such a poser. Her wrapper bothers me. It's unbalanced, FPS!


Pa trip 124

Sophia had a lot of help with her wrapper, after her first attempt turned up empty. I mean, she is five, after all!  She was very pleased with the finished result! "But when can we eat 'em, Mama??"

Pa trip 125

Well, yeah, I gave in and took them on one more free ride/tour for yet more samples, before the place kicked us out. Such a blast, we had. And yes, we brought Daddy home some chocolate!

Pa trip 126 

Our four finished products. I was, uh, going to save my bar as a present for Rob, but somehow, for some reason, some way, it didn't quite make it home. I don't know what happened to it... *blush*

Pa trip 128

Wrapper off the box, Jack paused for a moment to admire the tin can which held his custom-made bar. Would it be as yummy as it was fun to make? Time would tell. Not too much time, though.

Pa trip 129

Inside, another wrapper around the bar. I couldn't get a picture of it, but each of our names was etched on the edge, too. Kinda cool.

Pa trip 130

Finally, it was time for a bite.

Pa trip 131

Chloë, forever modeling 

Pa trip 132

Sophia didn't waste any time, after I gave her the green light!

Pa trip 133

Well, so how was it?? 

Pretty good, I must say.  We still had some by the end of the trip, because they were very large, and I only let them eat a bit at a time. No comparison to fine chocolate, but still, it's chocolate, you know?!

 Pa trip 135

Finally, after another whirlwind day on the road, it was Mommy time. I made sure the kids were fed, bathed and snuggled down in their beds, and then I started a bath for me. I had taken one the night before and dumped in one of the mini hotel bottles of shampoo for bubbles, so I did the same thing that second night with another bottle. Except, oops! It made a LOT more bubbles. A really lot! Pretty soon, those candles were covered with suds, and there was no WAY I was going to be able to read a magazine in there!

Pa trip 136

I hopped in the tub when there were half as many bubbles, but when it got this high, I called Chloë to come and rescue me. So she did, with camera in hand! Hee. The other two kids came trailing in behind her, laughing, pointing and squealing at the mess I'd made. There wasn't really anything else to be done, so I instructed them to shuck off their jammies and hop in with me! So, at midnight, when they should have long been sleeping, the four of us enjoyed a silly bubble bath together with lots of singing and laughing and playing. Good times, good times.


The next day was quite ridiculous, for me at least. We had to check out of the Hershey resort and get me checked into a hotel in the very north part of central PA, just below the NY line. Then we had to race the kids over to Jamestown, NY, to spend the night with Aunt Stacey and her family. Why? Because I had been hired to do a bar evaluation in the same hotel I was staying in, and they were paying me enough to make that doable. And I really wanted to see my sister, who hadn't seen me in 18 months and wanted to check out the new bod. The drive wasn't awful, but it wasn't terribly fun, either. Or fast. I don't have a lot of snow-driving experience, and it was coming down pretty hard. But we made it, safe and sound, just in time to half Aunt Stacey cut the kids' hair. I needed mine done, too, but we had to skip it so I could get back for my jobs.

Pa trip 138

Chloë had decided a week or two prior to that visit that she wanted her long hair cut off. It gets very knotty very easily, and it hurts like the dickens, she says. I let her make that choice, and she was adamant about it. Really? Sure? Certain? Positive? Yes, very definitely, yes.

Pa trip 141

It turned out to be super-cute, especially when dry. Aunt Stacey liked it, I liked it, and most importantly, Chloë liked it. Phew!

Pa trip 142

Sophia didn't want a trim, but she needed one. Her hair, man... it's not good. It just isn't. She's been SUCH a good girl lately about not cutting it (knock wood), and it's getting quite long. I like it best up in piggies or a pony, but she can only stand a hair doodle in for so long before she starts ripping it out, so I usually only put it up if we're going to be out somewhere. At home, I let her freak flag fly!

So, hmm. Apparently I didn't take any more pictures for the remainder of the trip, even though there were three more nights? Weird.

I left Stacey's to go back to my hotel and run my bar evaluation. Well, wow. I was really not sure I wanted to be alone in there, and my hunch was right, because I got hit on really HARD by this guy who said he was 46 but was probably a decade older. I couldn't leave, because of my shop, so I was his captive audience as he tried every game in the book on me. Finally, he went outside to smoke a cigarette (bleck), and I hastily took my leave. I literally RAN to my room and locked it up tight. I had told him my first name, so I was worried he would track me down, but he didn't knock on my door. I slept fitfully for only a couple of hours that night, before I had to get up and rush back to Stacey's, grab the kids, and then rush back to the hotel to check out. If I had that to do over again... oh, who am I kidding, I probably still would. I'm a glutton for punishment.

We spent the next two nights in the Philly area, doing two more hotel shops. Or was it one more night? Now that I think about it, probably just the one. That was a really nice hotel, but it was standard and therefore boring. Nothing notable happened and, like I said, I took no pictures you haven't already seen.

I wanted to take the kids into Philadelphia to see the Liberty Bell and other sights, but for whatever reason, we didn't make it. I think it was because I was just too tired.

The next day, we were supposed to do a really fun shop at a Christmas wonderland amusement park, but it was canceled due to inclement weather. That really SUCKED on the one hand, because the kids were excited about it, but on the other hand, it meant getting back home to Daddy that much sooner! So we turned tail and hit the road, Jack.

And now, you are caught up on our recent travels.

Until next time...


South Carolina


Our November trip to South Carolina was gobs better than the fateful Tennessee trip a week earlier. This time, it was just the kids and me, and I liked it that way just fine. I would have preferred it if Rob had come with us, but barring that, I didn't want no other comp'ny!

The trip had three parts: Two nights in Charleston at a resort, then a night in Aiken at my dad's, followed by two more nights in Charleston at two different hotels. I did a lot of shops on that trip. No rest for the weary!

When I opened these pictures just now, I was surprise by the sight of Chloë with long locks. She's had the short bob for so long (all of what, five or six weeks?) that I'd forgotten about those crazy tresses.


Charleston in late November was absolutely fantastic and unexpectedly warm. There was no swimming pool at our resort, which disappointed the children until the staff told us about this fountain park within walking distance. We headed down there post-haste. I'd figured on taking a few pictures of the kids in front of the fountain before going over to the playground area, but Sophia and Company had other plans. She was the first to hike up her pant legs and jump in - no surprise there!


Jack wasn't far behind Baby Sis, though. What a joy it was to watch them splash around and have "the best day ever," according to Chloë, who is perpetually declaring "best ever" days.


I showed you this picture before, but I love it so much, I'm posting it again. Take that!


The kids dared me to join them, and at first I didn't feel like it, so I declined. But whenever I say no to things like that, I try to question myself as to the reason, and if I don't come up with something satisfactory or reasonable, I think, well, why not, then? So I joined. And guess what? It was fun!


Sophia was so enthralled with this enormous leaf. It was pretty cool... 



This gorgeous wedding party walked right along the fountain, so I called out to the bride and asked if I could take her picture. Isn't she beautiful? I love that color. Seriously, why wear white when you can wear this? 


They were so handsome... but where were all the girls, I wonder?


Yeah, yeah, Ma. Let's get back to our swimming party!

It wasn't long before those three little turkeys did start to get a chill, so I called ahead to the resort and asked them to have warm towels waiting for us in the lobby. They were ready and waiting when we arrived, so I bundled up my shivering babies and hurried them upstairs to the bathroom for a warm soak in the tub. Thankfully, there was a free laundry room in the basement, so I spent the evening doing their fountain wash.


Did I mention how gorgeous our room was? It was. Very nice and cozy. I adored it. (My sister will be happy to see the blankets she made them for Christmas several years ago, still being dragged around everywhere we go!)


The kids loved the fireplace... until they broke it. Really, how do you break a fireplace? Only my kids could do that, I swear.


Darn Sophia for blinking. This photo outside the resort would've been great, otherwise! I took several more, but Jack's smile grew faker every time and was just laughable. Child photographers don't get paid near enough, no matter what they make!

(Look at her sweet legs, though. Don't they just make you want to go num-nums on her thighs? Mm. I could eat that baby UP! Well, I try, but she apparently doesn't want to be num-nummed to death.)


Sophie doing what Sophies do best!


Don't let her fool you. This child is NO angel. It's a good thing she's so hilarious and cute, or we'd have sold her a long time ago!



She's even funny when she sleeps! And just as active, too...


Just foolin' with my camera

Like I said, Charleston was absolutely splendid, and I completely fell in love with it. I am not a "South" person, but if I had to live anywhere, it would be Charleston. I can't say enough good things about it. There was plenty to see and do, which is a must for me, and tons of charm. It's near the water - another must - and full of cultural opportunities. You must visit Charleston!


From there, we headed west to Aiken to visit my dad for a night. He and Wife #5 were going to join us in Charleston, until we discovered we only had one bedroom instead of the expected two. So we went out there to see him instead. What a night. I love my dad, but he's best taken in small doses. One night was plenty with enough left over to last me a while.

(And is it me, or can you tell from this picture where Sophia gets those far-apart eyes? She's definitely a Simmons girl, that's for sure, unlike her more paternal-looking siblings.)


There was a stray dog, "Mama Dog," in my dad's neighborhood, who had a litter of adorable puppies. It was incumbent upon my dad and Wife, and one other family, to take care of the pooch family. They fed the mama and looked after the pups, making sure to keep them out of harm's way. My kiddos were excited, of course, to visit the baby hounds - especially Sophia, who definitely follows after her mother's animal-crazy footsteps. How cute are these sleepy doggies?!


We spent quite a while adoring the puppies and Mama Dog nursing the puppies, while Chloë was off playing with one of the neighbor kids. It was a nice neighborhood, I'll give them that. Safe for kids to go off on their own, unlike our own heavily-trafficked barrio. There were many more visits with the pups during our Aiken sojourn, as you can probably imagine. 

Aiken (2)

When I wasn't busy helping my dad set up all his wireless technology devices - an exercise in frustration, since he isn't going to be using a tenth of the techno-power he owns - I was off to a really nice park in town with the girls. Jack stayed back with Grandpa to build model cars, a passion they both share deeply. My dad has decided that Jack is of the age to start inheriting some of his less-valuable model collection, so we brought a few carefully-packed oldies home in a box for him to display on a shelf in his room and NOT TOUCH. This concept has been carefully pounded into his poor little head... but really, it's the little sister who needs the reminding!

Anyway, the park was lovely, and the girls quickly made friends, as is the norm for them. I took the time to relax and do nothing for the first time in the entire trip, except watch and enjoy the temperate clime.


Before we left for Charleston, Dad wanted to get a "family" picture on the porch. I wasn't in it, nor do I consider Wife to really be part of my family, but whatevs. It wasn't hard to make the old man happy. It took four shots, because there was lots of blinking going on, and I finally got tired and called it good enough!


I did manage to capture a sweet moment between grandfather and second-oldest grandchild. My dad talked to her several times about her behavior during that visit... Chloë is a very immature nine-year-old, I hate to say, but there doesn't seem to be any great advice out there about helping her grow up to be more mature like her peers. Everyone just keeps telling me, "Give it time, it will come in time," so I shall bide.


When we returned to Charleston, we found, as we had been told, that the trolley was indeed free to ride starting from that day! It was an effort to boost tourism and visits to the shopping district, so we hopped on board and rode hither and yon. I had wanted to take them on a horse-drawn buggy ride, since that's what we were supposed to be learning about in our Transportation unit in homeschooling, but not for $40! Free was much more our speed, and of course it was fun, to boot.


We encountered fountain after fountain in Charleston, and the kids and I never tire of them. They want to throw pennies and make wishes every time they see one, but alas, Mama does not always carry rolls of pennies around with her every where she goes... Nonetheless, fountains are alluring enough in their own right, without the wishing component, to keep them coming back for more.


A visit to Charleston's Apple store was necessary, in an attempt to repair my malfunctioning iPhone 3. A fix was not forthcoming, but for $18, I could upgrade to the new iPhone 4! What, $18?! Of course! Well, that was a joke. It was eighteen for the privilege of upgrading, but I still had to pay $200 for the phone. Psht. That had to wait two months, it turned out, during which time I annoyed everyone who tried to call me and found themselves unable to hear my end of the conversation. Fortunately, I'm now enjoying my new iPhone 4, so feel free to call me up and shout obscenities or whatever it is that you feel like doing. I might respond in kind, though.



These handpainted chocolates called out to us from a shop near the Apple one. They were beautiful but quite pricey, as you may imagine, so I let each child select ONE piece. Chloë surprised me by choosing a pistachio confection that was not chocolate at all... huh? You're in a chocolate store, you buy chocolate. It's, like, the law or something. At least, it should be. Melanie for President!


It was lunchtime by that point, so we ducked into a Subway for victuals. Never a dull moment 'round here... all three of them are making apple faces at you, if you can't tell!


We were walking and window-shopping when.. what! What is that?! Is it? It IS! Yes, I actually found a Britto-carrying luggage shop! Hello, score! I couldn't figure out where in the heck the entrance was, so I snapped some photos of the suitcases right through the window. The shopkeeps were nonplussed and merely went about their business. This must not be unusual for them. (It's possible there are other Britto fans out there in the world, methinks.)


Continuing on, we found an entrance to this shopping plaza where an elaborate train village was on display for Christmas. It was grand. The kids were immediately drawn to it. I could barely tear them away from it, but man, I had to visit the powder room!



In the end, I left them standing there, looking all over at the train village, while I ran to find the ladies' room. They hadn't moved. Note to self...


I like beautiful fixtures and decorations, and I'm a big fan of elaborate chandeliers. This one hung in the atrium where the trains were shown.



Moving down the hall a ways, I found the luggage store entrance! And even more Britto pieces! Of course, I checked the price tags and was shocked to find that they were completely reasonable and a bit less expensive than what I'd found them on the Britto housewares website. In due time, Self. In due time...

If you remember the pictures from our 12 Days of Christmas this past year, I did end up getting Rob a Britto umbrella from this shop. Wait, did I show you that? Now I don't remember. I wanted to get something Britto, but something far less expensive than a suitcase. I was going to get a luggage tag, but for just a couple more dollars, I was able to get an umbrella that will serve much more use. Hey, if he didn't want to use it, I would be happy to have it! Alas, he likes it.

There was also a Godiva shop in there, and it had been at least an hour since our last piece of chocolate, so I went in. No, really, I'm a member of their Chocolatiers club (I don't know what it's really called, but go on their website and you'll find out), which entitles me to one free truffle per month and some other thing that I forget. I don't have a local Godiva shop, so this was a first for me. I ended up buying, um, more than I should have, and we had a delightful chocolate binge later that afternoon. I probably made myself sick. Sometimes, it's worth it.



Hey, check it out - a fountain, in Charleston! Who knew?


Nyah nyah nyah, go on about your little buggy ride and leave us alone. Nyah.


After five nights, it was time to head home, just in time for Thanksgiving with Daddy. We stopped for lunch at South of the Border, which is just south of the NC/SC state line. We've been there with the kids before, so I had no intentions of dropping a load of money there for them to experience all the place has to offer. Quick lunch, and let's go.


Okay, okay, a few minutes and a quarter for a quick carousel ride, but THEN LUNCH!


The girls perusing the menu at Pedro's something or other. I have no recollection whatsoever of what they ordered, because who cares? I had two bites of an egg-and-cheese muffin sandwich, though, I do remember that.


It's weird to have the kids able to read their menus. I'm not quite used to not having to do it for them all the time. Nice, though!

And that, my good friends, was that. 

Another cup of coffee, and you may just get the Pennsylvania pilgrimage out of me, yet!




The first thing we did after arriving in Richmond ayer por la tarde was have lunch. Exciting, I know. I'd brought bread, peanut butter, Nutella - and the all-important knife, which I am wont to forget - and let the kids eat sammiches on the bed. After I thoroughly examined the room, of course, which I guess was technically the first part, but that goes without saying, right?

Then I took a nap. I was 'zausted!

Richmond 007

After my nap, we went down and did the dinner portion of the shop, in the hotel restaurant. OMG, the service was extraordinarily slow, which made no sense, considering the only people in the restaurant were us and the extremely obnoxious group of ladies women at the next table over. (Why did they have to seat us RIGHT next to them, when the restaurant was empty? Geez.) Anyway, the food took so long to arrive, Sophia had time to catch a quick nap on the bench next to me. Like, for real. It was slow.



Jack's reaction after learning that kids eat free at this particular hotel - and that ice cream was included. Okay, maybe it was me clapping about the "free" part. 


"Did someone say 'ice cream'?!!"


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I sent a million iPhone pix to Rob at home, including this "I miss you!" snap. Can't accuse me of having thin lips!

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Chloë had a rough day yesterday. She woke up with a migraine, and so she threw up, as she always does when she gets one. After eating her dinner, before the ice cream came, she had a bellyache. She's still gorgeous, even sick, though!

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Sophia was still tired after the food came, and then it took another eternity for the rest of the meal, so she snoozed a little more. It was stupid of me to let her, because then she was up well after midnight!

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She was posing all cute a little while later, and I tried to take pictures of her, but the iPhone flash was too bright. It happened again in this picture, which I showed her. She said, "Oooh, it looks like I have eye powers!"

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"Here, you stupid flash!"

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"Mom, do a face with me! ...are you doing one?"

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Finally, the ice cream came. Jack dug in IMMEJUTLY!

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Chloë gave her approval.

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The sisters are always copy-catting each other lately!

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There was a little basketball game in the back corner, so the kids played with that - with some of the restaurant staff - while we waited another eternity for the check to come.

 Richmond 019

Jack even managed to make a few baskets! Oh, wait, no... that was me.

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Eventually, the restaurant staff moved the basket down to the kids' level, and they were able to make shot after shot. They liked that, because the machine cheered for them!

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Jack being sweet with Mama


We visited the business center so I could check my email evaluate it, and look! at this mouse! It's freakin' huge! What the heck?!

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After their bath, Sophia made herself an outfit out of the bedding and my shoes, and apparently this was her wedding dress. How cute is that?!

 Richmond 023

Like I said, copycats! Look how skinny she is compared to Baby Sis, dang. Oh well, it's the same with my big sister and me.

That's it for the state capitol photo show. Maybe I'll be back tonight with South Carolina pictures, at long last!


I'm Too Sexy For This Post

The kids and I spent the night in Richmond last night for another hotel evaluation, so of course I had to check myself out once again in the full-length mirror in our room. I don't have one at home, so I take the opportunity when it arises, now that I like the view!

Richmond 001

My friend E noted that I was wearing horizontal stripes, while I was busy focusing on the newly-noticed space between my thighs. Aw, yeah. That's never been there before! There's a lot of loose skin there that needs to be removed, so that's great! But don't look at my face... I had just woken up from a face-down nap on the ever-so-comfy bed.


Richmond 003

The side view is a little more revealing, because I still have plenty of belly skin that needs to be removed. Ugh, I HATE it!! It drives me crazy. I can't wait to get that removed. That will be a happy, happy day for me. I've had it since my polyhydramnios with Chloë, and then of course it was exacerbated by the twin pregnancy.  (Sophia carried "high," so I have two lovely pregnancy bulges, so hot...)

And yes, these are the same leggings I was wearing in the other photo from the dressing room. I had on other pants, but on my way out the door, I totally peed in them! Yes, I did just say that! I have no shame. So I had to dash upstairs and put on the first pair I could find, which thankfully went okay with my outfit.

Okay, so maybe I'm not as sexy as I thought I was, now that I'm sharing how I wet my knickers and all...


Still Talkin' 'Bout Poop

Richmond 030

Today, I took my Daisy troop to the nice garden center down the road, in order for them to be able to get their hands dirty and have a sensory experience with different types of soil. I had attempted to bring a soil expert into our meeting area, but that didn't work out, so off we went on our first field trip!

I wanted them to touch and smell different soil types, and our facilitator did a great job of setting it up so they had 8 or 10 varieties. Of course, being 5- and 6-year-old girls, they had a giggle-fest when he told them that two of the composts contained poop - after their hands were already in it! Hee.

I'm not sure the mothers agreed with me that this was such a great idea. Heh.


Field Trip: Winter Wonderland At Hunt Club Farm

Last month (oh, I still haven't shown you Halloween pictures, which I probably won't now, or the South Carolina and Pennsylvania trip pictures, which I'm not sure I will now, either...), we went on a Field Trip to Hunt Club Farm again. This time, they were doing their Winter Wonderland extravaganza (my term), and the price was right, so we partook.

Winter Wonderland Hunt Club Farm

For the first part of our experience, we went through the semi-indoors display, showing all kinds of lighted winter vignettes. It was pretty cool and the kids really enjoyed it. (Click to make bigger.)


After the lights, we moved on to the "live nativity" that was supposed to be there. It was pretty lame, though. We found this, and...


...this. Really? Yeah, not so impressed. Moving along... 


The girls had a fun time in this maze of lights, and, I confess, I did too. Labyrinths are fun, what can I say?


For a dollar, I got an ice cream cone full of goat feed for the kids. It was completely worth the buck to see Jack enjoying himself so thoroughly. Of all the kids, he is the hardest to please, and I do try.


Jack made sure to feed the babies down below, too.


The hot chocolate was ridiculously overpriced, but the kids were freezing, so I allowed it. Of course, Sophia spilled half of hers, which is a daily occurrence 'round here.


The kids were absolutely driving me crazy until we took them to what they had been waiting impatiently for - the bonfire! There were actually about a half-dozen separate bonfires set up around the property, with benches around them, so there would be plenty of room for everyone. I had been wondering how they'd set that up.


At first, the kids just wanted to watch the fire. That lasted about 2½ seconds, until one of them remembered the big bag of marshmallows I'd brought for roasting. C'mon, Mom, break 'em out!


Daddy two-fisting the marshmallow roasters


The kids quickly gobbled up the entire bag of marshmallows, which they roasted for approximately 3 seconds each. Not me, I like my marshies crispy and brown! I tried to 'burn' one for Chloë, but she looked at me like I had grown three extra heads. Fine, more for me.


I didn't think to bring hot dogs and buns for the bonfire, mostly because ... ew, hot dogs? But the kids were starving, and they were selling them there for pretty cheap, so I figured what the hell. In the end, the four of them ate about a dozen hot dogs! Made for an inexpensive - and fun! - dinner. Speaking of fun dinners, I'm thinking I need to either break out and use my fondue set someday soon, or stick it on Freecycle.


I will not make the obvious joke here. I will not make the obvious joke here. I will not make the obvious joke here. I will not make the obvious joke here. I will not make the obvious joke here...


So that was our fun little field trip that almost wasn't! I got out of the hospital that morning, just so I could take the kids on this small adventure. I probably would've stayed in at least three more days if it wasn't for that, but I really wanted to go! I'm glad we did, because they had a terrific time, and there's nothing I like better as a mom than seeing my kids enjoying themselves. 


In Which I Saved A Million Bucks, Give Or Take

I haven't gone deal-shopping in a while. I think September was the last time, maybe? Maybe not, but it's been ages. I haven't cut coupons in that long, either. I'm working on it now, and by that I mean that I have had my slave Chloë sitting behind me on the floor, cutting them out for the last several hours.


(Funny picture apropros of nothing, but I had to include it, right?)

Anyway, I have been regularly sending my grandfather in Florida care packages, and the last one included about a dozen bags of cough drops. He has a throat problem that causes him not to be able to talk on the phone for very long, and since I have been amassing large quantities of Halls with all my shopping expeditions, I thought those might help him. He doesn't get a chance to get out much for toiletries, either, so I've been sending him all kinds of goodies out of my large stockpile.

Well, the last time I talked to him, he told me had been passing out the Halls to all his friends, like he was the damn Nursing Home Candyman! He had run out already! Grandpa!! I think it's funny, though. He put in his "order" for more toiletries, too, and I didn't have a few of his items in my stock, so I thought I better get back on the coupon train and get to work.

Yesterday was MLK Day, and I decided to give the kids the day off so I could go shopping. I mean, it's not like I was going to bake a cake in honor of Dr. King's birthday - what else could I do?


I'm not going to detail my haul too much, because, frankly, it bores me and it probably bores you, too. So I'll show some pictures and give a few notes beneath them. Let me just tell you that with Collin's help (from Hip2Save) and smart shopping techniques, my total out-of-pocket expense was about $6.50, and I brought home about $220 worth of goods. I don't know about you, but I think that's pretty fantastic!

So here we go:


So this doesn't really count as "deals," but I'm including it anyway because (1) I did this party store mystery shop in the middle of all my other shopping and (2) I'm getting reimbursed for this stuff, so it's free-to-me anyway.

Jack has decided he wants his 8th birthday in March to be celebrated at the Transportation Museum we visited a few months ago for a homeschooling field trip, so I've switched from stockpiling goodies for Rob's 40th birthday party (coming at you in late Summer, 2012 - mark your calendars and plan to come!) in order to start getting goodies for Jack. I really did not expect them to have anything for this particular party, so I was ecstatic when the sales kid showed me exactly what I was looking for. Cool, right? This is just the beginning!

Also, really, I've had that kid for eight years? i Imposible!


At Walgreens, I made about $23 - yes, made - on the above stuff. I could have gotten one more ThermaCare Heat Wrap (and made another dollar on that), but the cashier was getting flustered with me, so I called it quits. ;) Those Joint Juice bottles were on sale for $10, but I made a buck on each of them. (Rob will drink those, since his arthritis is acting up lately. I have it, too, but mine's been so much better now that I'm not enormously overweight.)

The key to making money at Walgreens is to find things that are free and then use a coupon on top of that. "Free?" you say. Yes, free, because they often will put an item on sale and then offer Register Rewards (RR = Walgreens funny money good for future purchases within two weeks) for their entire sale price. Those print out at the register.

Be right back. I'm fixin' to go get me one of those Gatorade G2s. I forgot about them already, heh!

Oh, and the Lindts were not planned ahead of time, but they were still a somewhat "smart" buy, because I've been getting a few of them at a certain 7-11 for 39¢ apiece, each time I go in for a 99¢ 44-oz Diet Coke refill. That would work out to $4.68 plus tax for twelve of them, which is how many is in each of those bags, above. However, I found them on sale for $2.50 at Wags, and I knew I was already going to make bank for these deals, so I bought four bags. Hey, you stockpile when you can, if you know you're going to use the goods!


This was my haul at Target, which is conveniently located right behind the party store. My OOP expense here was $4.15, and I had a $5 gift card... but forgot to use it. Argh. Plus the magic coupon machine spit out a $1 Q for next time, which lowers my OOP to $3.15. 

Free or better-than-free (which you can do at Target when the coupon is worth more than the price and the cashier gives you overage) items here are: well, everything except two of those Choxie chocolate bars. Those two bars I paid for represent exactly what my total was - in fact, a little less, because I made a bit more money than their price and my total would therefore have been negative without them. You can get BOGO coupons for the Choxie off Target's website right now. Hie thee, if you're a chocolate-loving family like we are!

And check it out, more Halls for my gran'pappy!


Sophia agrees that Choxie is pretty darned good... but not as good as Lindt! (and much better than Hershey. Sorry, Hershey, but... it's true.)


Here's my Rite Aid haul, which could have been WAY better, but they were out of so many things. The best thing to do, if you're going to be a serious couponer, is to prepare your list the day before and get there FIRST THING when the new sale week starts. I am rarely able to do this, so I miss out on a lot, believe it or not. 

I actually got four of those Friday's snack bags, which were better-than-free: on sale for 97¢, and then I got a dollar +Up reward (Rite Aid's funny money, good for future purchases) for each of them. The're pretty good, too, and yes, they are bacon-flavored, and yes, I had some. And yes, I puked. 

The batteries lowered my "take" on this haul, because they were an unplanned $6.99 purchase - but we always need AAA batteries, and really, you can't beat $7 for 16 Duracells, can you? (Actually, you can, because I got all four packs of those EverReady batteries up there in the Target deals for FREEEEEEE...)

Notice me stocking up on teen needs like pads, 'pons, Clearasil and stuff like that? Chloë may not need them anytime soon, but when she does, Mama will be prepared! ;)


Anyway, that's my haul this week. CVS was a dud, pretty much, although I may get four free packs of Orbit gum if I'm lucky. The Tooth Fairy is being kept busy lately, and she gives out gum, so I always pick it up when it's free!

Leave any questions about my deals in the comments, please. :)



Sunday Stealing: The Stupid Evil Bastard Meme


Link up here if you're playing along this week!

1. What time did you get up this morning?

Well, I didn't. I stayed up most of the night and then fell asleep in the morning, not waking up until afternoon. Not the plan, but oh well.

2. How do you like your steak?

I don't eat beef, since August 1995. (But yeah, before that, I liked it still mooing...)

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema?

At the cinema? My, aren't we fancy? I think Toy Story 3 was the last one. I'm such a mom!

4. What is your favorite TV show?

Dexter or The Big Bang Theory - but we canceled our TV service, so nothing now.

5. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Wherever Hubs is, I'll be happy there. But please, please, please, let it be warm.

6. What did you have for breakfast?

Uhh... a small bag of pistachios.

7. What is your favorite cuisine?

It depends on my mood, but I like Asian food. Japanese... sushi. Chinese (American) is good. Anymore, my favorite cuisine is anything I can keep down.

8. What foods do you dislike?

Anything involving mustard (well, that's a lie, because I adore devilled eggs). I don't do raw tomatoes. Or mushrooms. Or mammals. And I can't eat spicy foods at all.

9. Favorite place to eat?

I like dressing up and going anywhere fancy with Hubs. The Town Point Club in Norfolk is pretty nice, but we'll probably never get in there again. (If you do, you must have their she-crab soup!)

10. Favorite dressing?

I'm a simple girl. I like Ranch, Italian... nothing orangey.

11.What kind of vehicle do you drive?

I drive a silver 2010 Honda Odyssey, with which I have a love-hate relationship. It's supposedly green, but mine eyes can't detect anything but the silver.

12. What are your favorite clothes?

Funny you should ask! I just put on a pair of size 4 jeans from Old Navy without struggling, and I am on Cloud Nine. So at the moment, it's these jeans. And yes, I kept the sticker on the leg that says, "4 Short - Super Skinny" for the whole world to see! Hahaha....

13. Where would you visit if you had the chance?

I want to go everywhere. Everywhere!!! Starting with Australia and Japan.

14. Cup ½-empty or ½-full?

Definitely half-full. I'm an idealist, an optimist, a dreamer, a hopeless romantic... and I like it that way just fine.

15. Where would you want to retire?

Somewhere warm, multi-cultural, with lots to do. I get bored easily. I need lots of variety.

16. Favorite time of day?

The moment when Hubs walks in the door

17. Where were you born?

Just outside of NYC

18. What is your favorite sport to watch?

I like gymnastics, figure skating, that sort of thing. I'm not really a 'team sports' kind of girl.

19. Who do you think will never call you again?

Oh, lots of people. I've burned a few bridges in my time.

20. Person you expect to call you next?

My sister, I'm sure. If half a day goes by without our speaking, she gets nervous!

21. Who are you most curious about their responses to Stealing?

I don't really get a chance to read other peoples' responses lately, sorry...

22. Bird watcher?

Most definitely not. I'm just not a bird person. My youngest child loves birds, so I suspect that will have to change if her interest continues with age!

23. Are you a morning person or a night person?

I am the epitome of a night person. Morning people make no sense to me!

24. Do you have any pets?

My family inhabits the home of two sweet kitties. Well, they're pretty naughty, actually, and I've been thinking about having them for dinner. They never leave my yarn alone!!

25. Any new and exciting news you’d like to share?

Size FOUR! 4! Jeans! From the MALL! Yep, that's me, just a li'l ol' size FOUR!! :D

26. What did you want to be when you were little?

When I was really little, I wanted to be a teacher and a librarian. I was the intellectual sort, even then.

27. What is your best childhood memory?

I have a lot of good memories of being with my grandpa and grandma. They were kick-ass good grandparents and made my childhood not completely suck!

28. Are you a cat or dog person?

I'm a mammal person. I just prefer them small. I like those little yappy dogs that everybody hates. And kittens. And baby-anything.

29. Are you married?

We just celebrated our 10th anniversary! ♥

30. Always wear your seat belt?

I always do. Although I did forget to turn the lights on when I was driving tonight. OOPS!!

31. Been in a car accident?

Two or three. Maybe four. My back and neck will never be the same.

32. Any pet peeves?

I have a ton, but I think the thing that absolutely drives me the most crazy is people who literally stop when they're making a right turn, or just about - just freaking GO, already!!!!

33. Favorite Pizza Toppings?

A mí me gusta la piña

34. Favorite Flower?

Tiger lilies are my favorite. We even named our ex-dog after them.

35. Favorite ice cream?

Peanut butter and chocolate, followed by mint chip, followed by pistachio. You never get good pistachio anymore, though, do you?

36. Favorite fast food restaurant?

Meh. Whatever. I try to avoid it. There are so many I've never even been to in my whole life, and several more I've only been to because I had to do a mystery shop there.

37. How many times did you fail your driver’s test?

I passed it on the first go 'round, thanky kindly. Of course, I was nineteen at the time...

38. Who did you get your last email from?

The man in charge of scouting activities at the church where we hold our Girl Scout meetings

39. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card?

Oh, the local yarn shop, I'm sure. It would be soooo easy, too...

40. Do anything spontaneous lately?

Ha. Yeah, I'm pretty spontaneous all the time. I'm up for anything, anytime, anywhere - let's get going already!

41. Like your job?

My "job" is to educate and parent my children, and yeah, I love it. Most of the time. I ain't gonna lie, sometimes it sucks, but most of the time, it's the best thing on Earth!

42. Broccoli?

Cruciform. I'm fond.

43. What was your favorite vacation?

In 2008, my husband took me on a Mediterranean cruise that I'll never, ever forget. You can read about it here.

44. Last person you went out to dinner with?

Hubs, of course.

45. What are you listening to right now?

I have my iTunes on "shuffle," and R. Kelly is on at the moment. I think I last listened to this song in '95 or '96!

46. What is your favorite color?

I like all colors, but green is my fave.

47. How many tattoos do you have?

Zero, with no plans to add to that total.

48. How many times have you tagged someone to do a meme?

I don't know, I haven't done that in a long time. Is that even still done?

49. What time did you finish this meme?

Well, I'm not finished yet, silly goose! But right now it's 2:37 AM.

50. Coffee Drinker?

Reluctantly. I'd rather drink Diet Coke. If I'm drinking coffee, I doctor it up pretty heavily with fake sugar and flavored creamer. Unless it's Starbucks, in which case I'm probably having a caramel macchiato - but that's a pretty rare event.


P.S. Now it's 2:39 AM and I'm listening to "Boy from New York City" by the Manhattan Transfer. :P

Saturday 9: Wouldn't It Be Nice


Link up here if you're playing along with Crazy Sam today!

1. What's the nicest thing a complete stranger ever did for you?

Sent me an enormous check to finish paying for my college education. Thank you, Mrs. F!!! (She died before I ever got a chance to meet her...)

2. What one thing always speaks deeply to you, to your spirit, no matter your mood or what else is going on in your life?

The ocean. It pulls me, it calls me, it's where I find solace when I need to escape from life for a moment. I think I was a mermaid in another life.

3. How many jobs have you held in your life? How many of those were part of your chosen career field?

Oh, gosh. I don't know, a dozen or so? Two or three of them were in my field, if you count my paid internship at Mote Marine Lab.

4. Of those jobs, how many did you leave voluntarily?

All but one. I worked for Larry's ice cream parlor on St. Pete Beach on the side, and when the owner found out I was going to graduate school in the fall, she fired me. Logical, right?

5. How did you discover Saturday 9? How long have you played?

I'm not sure how long I've played. A year, maybe two? It was probably when I was searching for more memes to do, on a bored night. It's my favorite one, I think!

6. What's the worst beverage you've ever tasted?

Guiness beer. *barf* (Not that it stopped me from drinking the entire pint. But that was in Key West, and, well, that's a whole 'nother post.)

7. Is there anything in life you are "certain" about? Firm in your beliefs? Strong in your convictions?

Of course, I have many strong beliefs and attitudes. Too many to list. I'll share one: people should be nice to each other just for the sake of being nice. Practice random acts of beauty and senseless acts of kindness. Pay it forward. That kind of thing.

8. How did you come up with the title of your blog's posts?

I usually try to make the title relevant to the post (duh) and be amusing, in some way, at least to me!

9. Would you consider yourself a good cook?

I would consider myself a competent cook. I'm a recipe follower. Sometimes I come up with my own recipes, and occasionally it's been good, but not that tuna thing I made once. *shudder*

Happy weekend!


Aloha Friday


I haven't done this in ages, either. Such a joiner tonight! Link up here if you're questioning motives lately, yourself.

My question for you this week is:

Have you ever been CPR certified?

If you read my last (Friday Fragments) post, you'll understand why I'm asking.

Happy Friday!


Friday Fragments: Smelly Returns!

Wait. "Smelly Returns" could mean a lot of things, couldn't it? Well, don't sit and think about it too long! It means I'm going to try to get back into FF after a long absence, not... those other things. Just be forewarned that I'm listening to Bob FM online through my ear buds, very loudly, so if one of my fragments suddenly turns into song lyrics, well, that's why.

Another forewarning: This is going to be long. I have a lot of stuff to unload. Feel free to, you know, NOT read it!

Friday Fragments 

Link yourselves up right here if you're fragmenting along with the awesome Mrs.4444 (who is not so awesome at Words With Friends - aka Scrabble - on the iPhone, it turns out. Heh heh heh)!

And away we go!

The past two weeks have been insanely busy for me, so I'm pretty much going to post about the goings-on then. For starters, Rob (The Hubs) was in the hospital for 8 days, starting on Tuesday last week and ending on Tuesday this week. He's all right now and stuff, but he didn't plan that visit too well for me, timing-wise. I guess I'll forgive him, but our bank account may never recover from the amount of babysitting I had to pay for during his absence!

For starters, it was crazy Girl Scout Cookie week last week. Tuesday morning, I had an hour and a half of mandatory Leader training for that (I'm my younger daughter Sophia's Daisy scout leader). In the evening, there was the monthly Leader meeting, which, uh, I missed, because... we'll get to that. Thursday afternoon was our regular scout meeting, and Friday night was the big Cookie Rally. My co-Leader and I had to keep track of all 13 of our scouts by ourselves (8 of whom are 5 or 6 years old), because no parents were allowed. (It was insane!) Saturday, the cookie sale started, but it's been too freakin' cold out for us to go around the neighborhood, so I've been spared that for the moment. Still, I'm a little Girl-Scouted out at the moment, know what'm sayin'??

And yes, I will be happy to send you six cases of Thin Mints... if you pay for the shipping. ;)

After the cookie training last Tuesday, my Cookie Chair took me to BJ's, where she has a membership. We had to bring fourteen #10 (the huge ones) cans of veggies and fruits to Friday's Cookie Rally - one for each of our girls - for donation to the Food Bank. Our local council is really pushing the Food Bank this year. Which is great and all, but those things are 'spensive! ANYway, not the point. I did get some groceries for our household while there, and I decided I'm going to get a membership on payday. The pantry has been slim pickin's around here lately. Every time the kids turned a corner and found more giant containers of delicious-looking food, they would yell, "JACKPOT!" It was funny and sad at the same time. They were really relieved (and excited)when I told them not all that food was going to the Food Bank, and some of it was coming home with us...

So after I finally got home, schlepped all the groceries up to my door and got the kids out of the van, it was with an unimaginable amount of dismay that I discovered the water shut-off notice on the front door. Yep. Went in and checked: no water. None. I literally went berserk. I had forgotten to pay the bill last cycle, yes, but as soon as Rob got the notice on the door one single day before, I sent the payment. Online. Which takes a couple days. I didn't know they only gave you one day of notice to pay before shutting it off. Gulp. I sent the kids upstairs to play in their rooms so they wouldn't hear me fall apart on the phone with the water people. I was in tears and threatening to do things that would put me back in the Psych Ward I visited in December. You just can't have three kids at home with no water. Can't cook, can't wash dishes or yourselves - can't FLUSH. And have you seen what three little kids put out? You must have The Flush. Needless to say, I got them to come turn the water back on within hours, after swearing on a virtual stack of Bibles that I had, indeed, paid that %^&*( bill.

That was definitely not the highlight of my week.

I just don't get to say "schlepped" often enough. It's a fun word.

Moving right along...

Wednesday, I saw my shrink for the second time since I got out of the Looney Bin. It was a good thing. My bipolarity has me swinging off the chandeliers one moment and contemplating slicing up my wrists the next (not kidding). It's been pretty hellish inside my brain lately. He changed one med, increased another, and refilled the third. Fingers crossed that this is the combo that works.

Jack was supposed to go to his Urologist on Thursday morning for a follow-up after his surgery on September 1st, but uh, it took me so long to get him scheduled that his referral expired. Stupid, sucky Mommy. (He had a bilateral orchiopexy.) Yet another thing lately on which I have dropped the ball. Hopefully by next week's Fragments, I'll have scheduled the appointment to get a new referral...

Thursday afternoon was, at long last, our Girl Scout Christmas party. The girls each exchanged gifts. Sophia completely and totally embarrassed me when she opened her present (from my Cookie Chair's daughter, no less), saw what it was, threw it, looked like this:

Sophia pouting 

for a few minutes, and then burst into tears. Why?? Because it was Tinkerbell/Fairy goodies, and she thought *I* had given her MORE Tinkerbell stuff. She had all Tinkerbell things in her stocking this year, and Chloë got Disney Princesses stuff, and she wanted Princesses, and here was more Tinkerbell, and ...ugh! It was mortifying. I had to take her out of the room, lecture her once again on the proper way to receive a gift, and then put her in the corner when she was STILL being bratty. And then go apologize for her behavior. I'm still embarrassed!


The Cookie Rally on Friday night went really well, and I didn't lose a single Daisy. (The chemist in me thinks of my troop of Daisies as a whole lot of excited valence electrons, if that's any explanation!) Sophia was probably griping here about not getting more cookies... See her red shirt? One of the troop parents had the bright idea to put all our girls in the same color, and we chose red. Worked like a dream.

Saturday and Sunday, the kids and I spent pretty much all day at the hospital with Daddy. Thankfully, they provided crayons and paper to keep the little ones busy. It helped. Mommy and Daddy got into the drawing and coloring for a while there, too. It was pretty therapeutic. I smuggled in some chocolate for the patient, even though no outside food was allowed. It was most appreciated. I smuggled in my new iPhone 4 for him to "ooh" and "ahh" over, too. Daddy likey.


So far this school year, I've been working a ton with Sophia on letter sounds. She kept getting them mixed up, and she found the whole process rather boring, so we didn't really graduate beyond that - until December, when things suddenly clicked for her, and she began to read! Still, I didn't go back to the Hooked on Phonics program we'd been using, because we did so much traveling last month, and because I wanted her reading skills to develop more informally in that period. We went back to HoP on Monday, and she did a beautiful job with the program, even reading her first three stories to me, unassisted. So she finally got to put her first sticker on her reading chart, which has been up on the wall since September. It was a momentous occasion, so we all did the Happy Dance! Yay, Sophie!

Monday night was dance class for Chloë and Cub Scouts for Jack, so we didn't get to visit Daddy at the hospital. That sucked, and we all missed him like crazy. I may have cried a little.

Tuesday was nuts. I had to go to the mall to get an eye exam (yes, for a mystery shop, but I really needed it). My vision has jumped another big step, for the worse. Awesome. Not that you care. After that, I stopped in at The Children's Place to check the clearance racks. Score! I got over two dozen pairs of good, quality pants for less than six bucks each - half for the girls, half for the boy - since they've all been in high-waters lately. Imagine that, my kids actually grew! Now to take the 3Ts and 5Ts to the kids' consignment shop...

In the afternoon, I still hadn't heard when Hubs was getting out of the hospital, and I was starting to panic. I had to take Jack and Sophia to gymnastics (the boy joined his sister in class last week, too, and he's über-enthusiastic about it) in the afternoon, and then spend four hours at the Girl Scout council doing my CPR certification class, and I really didn't want to get another sitter for that... plus I wanted him HOME, of course! I called the head nurse, his command, his chief (because he had to be released to the command, not his wife, argh), and finally found out they were discharging him in the next 20 minutes. Really? You couldn't keep me in the loop?? I dropped The Littles off at the gym and then raced my tush over to the Naval hospital to scoop him up, before rushing us back to the gym to pick up the little gymnasts. In rush-hour traffic, both ways. Normally, that should have taken me about 2½ hours, but I did it in an hour and 15 minutes. Go me.


Tuesday night, I spent four hours learning CPR, for the first time. I meant to do it after I had my first kid, and then the next two, and then the last one, and then... I never did. Now that I'm a scout leader, it's time. It was an adrenaline rush, for sure. I've been on the lookout for an unconscious victim ever since. Next month, I'm going to take the next step and take the course to be a Red Cross CPR instructor. I'm doing it for free through the Girl Scouts, in exchange for teaching a couple classes a year after that. I'm nervous and excited!


Wednesday night was our monthly Bunco night. I almost forgot to make my cupcakes! 1700 rolled around, and I finally got started... or at least I did, after I sent Hubs out to pick me up some eggs. Well, I wanted to make some really cute cuppies, only all the Wilton food color gels I wanted to use had dried out. So I had to use blue. I tasted some of the blue frosting... can you tell??


Then, I put the tinted frosting in the fridge so it wouldn't be soft and melty like it was in the tub, while I showered and got ready. Only, I left it in there so long, it got TOO hard, and I couldn't use the swirly tip I wanted to use. So I ended up doing these slapdash basketweave cupcakes, in blue, and getting exactly nothing like I wanted. Apparently they were good, though, and I was asked to bring cupcakes every single time.

This morning, I had my two-year check-up with my gastric bypass surgeon. Hard to believe two whole years have gone by since I weighed *gulp* 341.3 pounds. I've lost about 205 of those lbs along the way, dropping from a BMI of 62.xx to somewhere in the mid-20s (hard to tell with all the extra floppy skin I'm still lugging around). I'm happy, but I'm not finished yet. I look okay in clothes, but when I take them off, it looks like I'm 92 years old. No lie! So Plastics is in my future, and I'm okay with that. Just don't touch my face, because I'm pretty adorable. Ha!

Tonight, I went for the follow-up to my CPR class, which was the First Aid portion. I aced my test. Well, I did get one wrong on the child first aid portion, because I read the question as a CPR one instead of a choking/abdominal thrusts one, der. That'll teach me to rush to be the first one done! (That's a lifelong habit I've had, so dumb.) It was a good class, and I'm seriously glad I've had it. My only complaint - and a major one - is that there was waaaaaaay too much joking around and talking during the instruction and videos. A little laughter is fine. The entire six hours? Not so much. Not when some of us aren't taking it for the 7th time and actually want to learn this stuff! Now I need to stock a first aid kit to bring with me everywhere I go!!

Well, I could bore you to tears for another hour, and THEN share some cute-and-funnies from the kids, but I shan't. This has gotten long enough, and I know you agree. Have a fantastic weekend, and send me any extra gauze and band-aids you have in the house. ;)


P.S. Scroll down and read my Poop Story, if you missed it. I'm told it was a good story, anyway.

The Poop Tale


So I promised Nicole I'd tell this story, and now I'm here to do just that.

Forewarning: if you get grossed out easily, maybe don't read this one. It's not really THAT nasty, but as you may have guessed, poop is involved, so... it's your call.

In, oh... 1999 or 2000, I was in grad school in Tampa, working on my Ph.D. at the University of South Florida under this great man. (It's true; you can ask him.) I was there to study the ecomorphology of shark feeding habits, basically. That's the backstory.

For our ichthyology class, we had to partner up and do some kind of study. My partner was G. At first, we were going to do an aggression study on Betta splendens, but it didn't work out. So when we went on a research trip to the Dry Tortugas, G and I saw an opportunity to do a different sort of study.

In a nutshell, we were going to survey a few randomly-chosen areas of the reef during dawn and dusk and tabulate data on the changing apparent fish populations during those periods of time. To be more specific, G chose one spot, and I chose another, and over the course of an hour or two in the early morning and again in the evening, we documented which fish species were present each minute during the survey periods. {Whatever ended up happening with that data is beyond my recollection, so don't ask me. I can tell you about other studies I've been involved with, but somehow I doubt anyone cares!}



So in order to get to our reef survey locations, we had to borrow another student to motor us from our research boat over to the correct area in this sort of dinghy. That student stayed in the anchored dinghy, reading a magazine or whatever, while he waited for us to conduct our observations.

So picture me, hovered with my mask, snorkel and fins, at the top of about 10 or 15 feet of water, in crystal-clear water, with a pretty good current going in the direction from my head to my feet. I had to swim against the current constantly to keep my eyes locked on my square-meter quadrat on the reef, all the while writing furiously in pencil on my waterproof paper. (Oh yeah, they make that. Did you know?)  Some minutes, only one or two species were visible, while other minutes, there had to have been at least 20 - and I had to get them ALL written down every minute.

What I'm trying to explain is, I was busy! It was a little insane. Thinking back now, I could have developed a better system, using code to notate which species I saw, but that's neither here nor there anymore. The point is, I didn't have any time for distractions or interruptions.



Now, I don't know what triggered the feeling deep in the pit of me that I was going to have to poop, but I think it was the food we'd eaten at dinner that night on the boat. And I could tell, from the sick feeling that I was getting in my belly, that it was not going to be solid. This was going to be one messy shit, when it made its appearance.

I was floating around in the middle of the water, about 100 yards from the dinghy and G, when a juvie nurse shark, about four feet long or so, swam into my quadrat. If you know anything about sharks, you know that this should not have been cause for alarm. There's a saying, "Don't pull the nurse shark's tale," which basically means, unless you molest her, she's going to leave you alone. Nurses aren't like Great Whites. They're pretty docile. But at the time, essentially alone out there with the occasional barracuda giving me the eye, it was enough to spook the bowels and get the ball rolling. So to speak.

I can't remember exactly what I had on, but I think it was a t-shirt and shorts over my bathing suit. In any case, I was 30 minutes into my hour-long study period and I had to GO. NOW.

I had no choice. I wasn't going to make it. It was coming.

So I timed to the next minute. Wrote down my species as fast as I could, swam backwards for five or ten feet, pulled my clothing to the side, and crapped into the ocean as hard and fast as I could so I could get back to my quadrat in time for the next minute's data.


I felt a little better, but I wasn't done. Now, in addition to all the other activities I was simultaneously doing, I had to keep an eye on where my poop was going, so I didn't end up swimming into it and inadvertently getting some of it in my snorkel! It was tense. It didn't help calm my tummy down at all.

Five or so minutes later, I had to repeat what I'd done: Back up, pull to the side, and ram it out of me like a shot, into the dark water.

I did that at least three more times that night, while still trying to be conscientious about collecting the correct data.

Eventually, I gave up. I had about 10 minutes left, but I just couldn't stay there any more. I was sick to my stomach, I was weak by all the fighting against the water and having excessive runs, and I was tired. I decided to call it a study and swam back over to the dinghy.


To my surprise, G. was there, already sitting in the dinghy. He didn't look well either, but both of them were in there chuckling. I was puzzled. 

After I managed to haul my chubby self into the boat, I started to inquire about why G. had given up the study early, since I knew I had, and he was there before me.

Turns out, he'd gotten sick and had been forced to crap in the ocean a whole bunch, and he was too exhausted to go on.

I could relate...and we all had a good laugh when I revealed that I'd suffered the same fate!

So there's my story, Nicole. Hope you enjoyed the straight poop on the time I had to crap in the ocean!