Previous month:
May 2011
Next month:
July 2011

Entries from June 2011

Learning Barge On The Elizabeth River


Tuesday, we joined some fellow homeschoolers for a field trip to The Learning Barge, on our local Elizabeth River.  It was a really great program, and I'm so thrilled that we had a chance to participate. We got there just as it was starting, and we listened to the facilitator talk about the Elizabeth River, its relative health, and what the kids would be doing.



After splitting up into three groups of learners, the kids went to their first station at the heart of the barge. They learned about checking the salinity of the brackish water that makes up the E. River (today, it was 19; ocean water is about 32-33), and they looked for tiny annelid worms using pipets and large petrie dishes. Sophia and Chloë both managed to find some, so they were excited to share that with the group.



They also learned about the oysters growing in the river, along with the types of seagrasses there.


006 008 010

The Learning Barge is very "green," in that no electricity or gas is used to move it (they rely on tug boats to change location!) or power it, and each child waited in line to use the water pump for the sea grasses. Chloë, of course, found it the most difficult, while Sophia wanted to do it all day long.



Here are the girls pipetting for the tiny annelids.



Jack had a more difficult time finding some. He was pretty grumpy during the whole morning excursion, too. He does NOT like to be awakened, and he doesn't like being on a boat. So I dealt with his mood the whole time, but I didn't let it put a damper on my spirits, which were high at the time. I love being on the water and, of course, learning about marine and estuary life.



After that, they went inside another chamber of the barge to paint what they hope the Elizabeth River will look like in 2020, when the goal is for it to be swimmable and fishable. Chloë did not deign to show me her finished work; she's often secretive about her art projects!


Next, we headed back outside, where the kids were allowed to dunk sampling buckets into the river, in order for us to test whether bacteria from, well, poop was present there. They also listened about how it's important for dog-owners to "Scoop the Poop" instead of letting it sit in the yard, to keep run-off clean and help the river be accessible.


The kids each dumped their collection buckets into an aquarium for testing.


Yup, the water tested positive for the E. coli bacterium. Ick.


Here, they learned about the zones of land that are affected by - and, in turn, affect - the Elizabeth River, and each of its four branches.


Sophia showed me the cool tattoo she received, while waiting to move on to our next station.


The kids were then shown the eight 200 Watt solar panels that are used to harness energy on the barge, and the big battery compartment where that energy is stored.


The barge also uses a wind turbine to collect wind energy, which the facilitator demonstrated with a pinwheel, before pointing out the big mill on top of the boat.


Then, the kids were shown the rainwater collection site, and the 5-gallon gauge there on the wall. Each was allowed to pump some water from the rainwater collection, to see how the sink and toilet operated in the head.


They each washed their hands in the sink - hard to see there, because I didn't have a good photo-taking spot!


Right outside the head, the kids were told that the plants filtered the soap out of the water coming down the drain from the sink, so that it could be of further use. Pretty cool, huh?


The kids were then shown some more grasses and asked if they could find any that were currently pollinating.


Here's some! Once they knew what to look for, each kid was quickly able to find some pollinating plants.


The kids were turned around and shown the barnacles on the pilings where we were moored, and a little bit about their lifestyle was described for the children.



At our next station, the captain showed the kids some critters caught just that morning in the river. Of course, they all wanted to reach in and touch them right away!


There were a few shrimp, which some children decided were delicious and some, not so much. Chloë was a "yum"-mer.


This crab was particularly feisty when I tried to take his picture. I tried to get him snapping at me, but it was too fast and then he wouldn't do it again - 'least not without me sticking a phlange in there, and I wasn't going to do that for you!


And of course, some jellies, which had all of us moms quoting from Finding Nemo, about touching only the tops, because, "...they won't... sting... you!!" 


The captain then lowered a secchi disk, and explained about measuring turbidity to the group of kids, most of whom probably didn't grasp the concept at this point, but that's okay.


It was 4 decimeters, by the way, but they just wrote that down dutifully on their clipboard papers and moved on to the next thing. I tried to tell Chloë that meant 40 centimeters, but she got too easily confused, so I dropped it. For now. 


It was explained to the kids how the old-time sailors used to determine wind speed by looking at the waves and ripples of the water. We only had ripples, so they were told that was about 5 knots.

Oh, and somewhere along the way, we measured the air and water temperature, which were 84ºF and 79ºF, respectively.



Lastly, we all got back together for the "River Rock," a fun little ditty with hand motions about cleaning up the river and making it swimmable and fishable by 2020. Here's to that!


We said our good-byes to the ones we knew and headed home for lunch. The kids were grumpy and hungry by that point, but I was happy and contented about our morning spent learning about the environment of the Elizabeth River. 


Bound To Travel


This, here, is a pile of three books I made for my kids. I worked for months, long hours, on them, and I am SUPER proud of them. So I thought I'd show them to you.


The books each have a plastic cover and are coil-bound for durability. The map of the USA is on the front (I didn't go for territories, except for DC, but we can always add those in later), along with the child's name. When the child has been to or through a new state, they will be able to shade in the state on the map. It's my hope that they'll keep these books - their passports to the 50 States and D.C. - with them always, and eventually get the whole map shaded.


Sorry for the glare on the shiny pages, but these were quickie photos. I made the pages - two states per page - in Word, with lots of help from Paint, so they're pretty low-tech and imitable, if you feel lke doing the same. If you want my copy, maybe I'll sell it to you for a nominal fee. ;) Anyway, this is Georgia's page. Each state's page has a representative map, the state tree, state seal and quarter, and the flag. There is also a place for notes on when they were there, where they visited, and what they liked best. The backs of each page are blank for more notes, if desired.


The flag of New Mexico provides the backdrop for its page. I got a little more artsy as I went along. Sorry, Alabama.


I learned a lot about each state, myself, while making the books. It was pretty fun and interesting, and a worthy project. Oklahoma, for instance, has more "state this and state that" than any other, I think. Also, almost ALL states have "milk" as the official beverage. 


For Rhode Island, the Red Maple leaf provides the backdrop. I love this page; it's so pretty to me.



The back of the book is made of vinyl.

And that's it! I plan to stamp the year on each state's page for the kids, when it has been visited. We have a lot of stamping to do, given all our travels this past year!

I hope you like my little project for my wee travelers.


Money Savvy Piggy Banks


The kids have each been getting $2 allowance since we started our Sunday night Family Meetings two weeks ago, and they absolutely love it. We wanted them to do more than just pocket it, lose it, spend it, or heaven-knows-what-else with it, so I went on Amazon and got these Money Savvy piggy banks for each of them. (Chloë picked purple, Sophia pink, and inexplicably, Jack wanted a football. He has no care for football outside of this bank, so I was amused by this choice.)

When the banks arrived in the mail, I took each child aside and explained what each section (Spend, Save, Donate, and Invest) was about, and how we wanted them to portion off their money for each.

First, I told them that "Invest" was a special kind of savings that we would talk about further later but not really deal with at present. So none of their allowance currently goes into that slot.

Second, I told them I wanted them to donate about 10% of their allowance to the cause or charity of their choice. Chloë decided she wanted her donations to go to CHKD, which I think is great because both Jack and Sophia have been treated there. Her siblings followed suit, so we'll all be donating to CHKD when their donations have grown. Mom and Dad will make matching donations for each child. One of our local radio stations teams up with CHKD to get "change bandits" like our kids to donate their loose change, during a big fundraising push (I think) in the Fall, so I'll wait for that and then get them to call in and donate their piggy bank money. I think they'll like that!

Then we discussed "Save." I asked each of them what they might want to save up some of their money for. Sophia decided she'd like to have a nice Barbie or two. I told her that would take about 20 bucks or more, so she would know when she had enough money to go to the store.

Jack saw a nice helicopter toy when he was out with his dad recently, and I forget how much it costs, but that's what he decided to save up for.

As for Chloë, when she turns 10 in September, we're going to celebrate the milestone by taking her up to the new American Girl store in D.C. to pick out a look-alike American Girl doll, maybe have a tea party, and do whatever else we can there. I have to do more research; she knows more about AG than I do from studying the magazine and catalog she gets monthly! Anyway, I told her I would pay for the trip there and the doll itself, but any ear-piercing or accessories or whatever else, would be hers to cover. So she's saving her allowance for that, and it's really thrilling for her.

As for the "Spend" category, I told each of the kids that after putting money in the "Donate" section, they could put no more than half the remaining in that slot, with the other half (or more) going in the "Save" slot. So far they have chosen to do that, half and half. They went to the store with Dad the other night and each brought along what "Spend" money they had collected in their banks, but none of them decided to spend any of their money. I think they're already realizing that it's a lot harder to part with when it's your own, and they are being careful with it. I think that's fantastic!

So if you have any suggestions to go along with this new money-saving adventure for them, please let me know. When their "Save" sections are full, I plan to take them each to the bank to open a children's account and learn about banking some more. Should be fun.


Sunday Stealing: Seriously Random Meme, Part III

Sunday Stealing 

Link up here to play along today!

41. Who was the last person you went shopping with?

My husband and the kids, for groceries. Exciting times.

42. What is something you need to go shopping for?

Paint - that kind that covers up the kids' scribbling all over the walls. :|

43. Do you have the same first name as one of your relatives?

Nope. But I had the same first name as two other people at a baby shower I attended yesterday, which is unusual.

44. What kind of car do (did) your parents drive?

My dad drove a mint-condition 1971 Dodge Challenger convertible for a while, until he sold it for, well, a mint. I really don't remember what he's got now, although I know another convertible is in the collection. I want one, too! As for my mom, her last car was a Fuego. It was red, and it sucked. Have you ever even heard of a Fuego? (That would have been in 1984.)

45. Are you rich?

Very much so, in the my-family-rocks kind of way. Definitely not in the financial realm!

46. If you could spend one intimate night with a celebrity, no questions asked, never to see them again, who would it be?

Eric Clapton

48. What famous person do you look like? Feel free to use this facial match program by clicking here. Show us at least the celeb photo.

I've been told Molly Ringwald on many occasions.

49. What is the most daring thing you've done recently?

Chopped off almost ALL my hair, on a whim! It was my Britney Spears moment. :P

50. Say you were given a pregnancy test right now. Would you pass or fail?

There is no pass/fail with a pregnancy test, is there?! But no, I wouldn't be preggers. Zero chance of that.

51. Which sex scandal of the last decade bothers you the most?

None. Really? It's their business, not mine.

52. Do you know anyone in jail/prison?

Nope. Sorry to disappoint you.

53. What are your plans (or what have you done) for this weekend?

Right now I'm taking a break from deep cleaning the house. Yesterday, I went to a so-fun baby shower. Later, I'll get a shower of my own, I hope. It's hot.

54. Have you ever woken up and not known where you were?

Yes! That happens to me quite frequently, actually. It's very disturbing to me, temporarily at least.

55. What were you doing at midnight last night?

Snoozing, hard.

56. Last restaurant you went to?

Sonic. Five different ones in one night. I could explain, but I shan't.

57. How many hours did you sleep for last night?

Like a dozen, maybe.

58. Which is more distracting: Sexting while driving or sex while driving?

I don't do either one, thanks, and neither should you. Seriously, there are children on the road with you people!

59. Do you think someone is thinking about you right now?

Yes, my kids are thinking, "I wonder if mom realizes we're playing with the kitties instead of cleaning right now..." I'm sure of it. (And yes, I realize. The kitties are quite vocal about it.)

60. Have you ever changed your clothes while in a vehicle?

Of course I have. Lotsa times.

Have a great week, thieves!


Saturday 9: Make You Feel My Love


Link up here if you're playing along today!

1. What has someone done unusual to make you feel their love?

Accepted me unconditionally, warts and all.

2. Do you own a smart phone? If yes, is it everything you wanted? If no, how seriously have you considered a purchase of the new smart phone?

I lurve my iPhone 4, yup yup yup!

3. Have you ever camped out to purchase something?

Psht, God, no. Nothing is worth that much to me. Nothing for sale, anyway.

4. What is your worst habit?


5. What is your best habit?

I try my hardest, and I really DO care.

6. In your opinion, what is life's greatest mystery?

Why people have to be mean to others just for the sake of being mean. Why can't people just be NICE to each other, for the sake of being nice? I have never understood that.

7. Are you one of those people who is constantly busy with projects, social outings, etc. or do you just like to lay low and stay home?

A little of both, but we seem to always be on the go anymore. There's very little down time at home. 

8. Whether you're busy all the time or like to just chill, have you always been that way?

Yeah, pretty much. Type A right here.

9. Is there something you'd like to change about how you spend your time? If so, what is it? If not, why not?

Yes, I'd love to fix my unconventional sleeping habits, and I'm working with a new therapist who has several interesting theories about it. She's going to help me get back on track, I know she is. I'm excited about it!


Presenting... Mickey & Maniac!


Last week, the kids and I went out and picked up two unrelated Lionhead Rabbit bunny-babies, and we immediately fell in love with them. They are so sweet, so soft, so ... well, okay, Maniac earned his name from scratching the bejeezus out of me until I clipped his nails, but Mickey is a little darling.

Ten points if you can figure out the connection between their names!

001 (2) 

The kids, they are driving us crazy with wanting to hold, pet, and do God-knows-what else to the Mr. and Mrs. Bunbuns all day long, but it's okay, because I figured it would be that way.

And the poor buns are lucky there are two new kittens in the house (Cupcake and Muffin) to distract the kids once in a while. With our two older cats, Tinkerbell and Star, rounding out the numbers, we have our fill of critters at the moment. Oh, please, Star, don't be pregnant...!

Bunnies are cute. That is all.


I Dream In Buttercream



Lately I've had several orders come in for You Take The Cake! - which is GREAT except for one very big problem: It's like, 900º out there (and in here), and we currently don't have air conditioning. We have a fan. That's it. You know what doesn't like heat and humidity? Buttercream frosting. You know what cakes are made with, lotsa times? Buttercream frosting. I've had to turn down a few jobs, or at least not pursue them, but I did take on some orders this week that I thought I could fill.

This one, above, was for a gentleman who was helping plan the baby shower for his wife and their first child, a little girl. She had mentioned petits fours to him, so he wanted to get some for her. We settled on 80, for 30 guests. He mostly left the rest up to my discretion, but he mentioned that his wife liked pink and green. So here's the breakdown:

40 Vanilla cakes + 40 Chocolate cakes

Of those, 20 were pink fondant, 20 were white, 20 were green, and 20 were chocolate - 10 of each cake flavor.

Of the vanilla cakes, half were layered with rich buttercream, while the other half were layered with hazelnut chocolate creme.

Of the chocolate, a third was the buttercream, a third was the Nutella (duh), and a third was homemade key lime curd, which turned out to be outrageously delicious. (I have more of that on refrigeration and will be looking for a good usage of it soon!)

The petits fours were oodles and oodles of work. If I'd known how much, I might've charged double! I will remember that in the future. They turned out bigger than I wanted them to be, but I could've easily controlled that. I chose to go with it, and after staying up all night, what, Thursday night, baking the cakes and filling them, I froze them and then spent Friday alternating between making up and dipping them in their various fondant coatings, and working on the baby blocks cake the client also wanted for the main cake, spelling out the baby's name.

As far as the petits fours, I asked my husband over and over if they looked okay, and over and over he said they looked great, very professional, blah blah blah. This man also tells me I have a sexy body, which I clearly do not if you have ever seen me in the nekkitude, so I accepted his assertions only with serious dubiousness. I mean, really, do they look okay?!

Once those were finished, nestled on their foil-covered boards and boxed, I kept them in front of the fan so they wouldn't turn into so many goobly gobs of pink and green poo, and turned my attention to the block cake.

Oh, the block cake. It should have been SO easy. Really, blocks? What's the trouble, bubble?

That damn humidity did a serious number on my buttercream. It just would NOT set. And my cakes, apparently they didn't like the barometric pressure in the house or something, because they kept crumbling in my hands. Which necessitated using MORE buttercream-as-glue to put it back together, and Oh, My Gosh, I literally sat there and cried when I saw that it was not just going to come together.

Other than my Topsy Turvy Cake Wreck (did I ever blog about that? It was fugly, but a fun practice effort), this was the hardest confection I think I have ever tried to put together.

I frantically emailed the daddy and told him of my predicament. He told me, take your time, and let me know if there's anything I can do to help. I retorted something like, "Yeah, bring me a stiff drink," or some such unprofessional inappropriateness.

Long story short, Mr. Client arrived while I was still tearing what's left of my hair out over the blocks cake and weeping in my buttercream, toting a bottle of rum and a, well, a very sexy smile. Rob was asleep upstairs. Whatever. He could have come down at any time and joined us, and we certainly didn't try to be quiet.

We raided my shot glass collection (as he laughed at my Ocean Breeze one, but hey, if I've been there, I want it represented in an inch and a half of two-dollar painted glass), and he poured us each a shot. Woo. I haven't done shots since college, maybe? Or maybe I have, but nothing so burn-y and wow-ee. You know that kind. They were nothing to him, but to li'l ol' me, they were quite the thing.

Of course, being post-gastric bypass, one shot and I was done. Toast. Positively inebriated. So you can imagine how I felt after five. Yes, five. I'm not proud. But it was fun.

In the end, he decided he couldn't accept the blocks cake, because it just didn't work out. And I didn't blame him, because really, it just didn't work out! I'm embarrassed to show you, but of course I'm going to, because that's all you want from me right now:


No, the "N" didn't really lean over that far; it was the angle of the picture. And no, it's not gasp-worthy or anything like that. But it's really, really not terrific.

Honestly, though, I did the best I could under the circumstances. And like Mr. Daddy (that sounds dirty, hee) said, "It's just a cake." He was very chill about the whole thing. You know I was waiting for him to leave so I could pop eleventy-five anti-anxiety pills, which I did, because it was all very stressful.

So in the end, while we did those five shots, I mashed up the cake and made him set up little bitty boxes. I turned the blocks into little cake balls, using the leftover pink fondant from the petits fours, and decorated each with a little pink florette. I told him he could toss those out the window on his way home, use them at the shower, or whatever-the-hell, but just take them to make me feel better.

And so he did.


P.S. I'm making him cookies for his birthday in a couple of weeks, and you know I can kill some cookies. And he promised I haven't lost his business. So it wasn't a total cake-tastrophe. Oh. Did I really just go there? I think I did.

P.P.S. Totally forgot: He said the petits fours were a hit at the shower. So yay. I'm not a total screw-up!

Awful Arthur's... IS.

002 (2)

So the other day, I snagged a free $25 gift certificate to Awful Arthur's Oyster Bar on General Booth Blvd, from one of those daily deals websites. Didn't cost me a thing, so knowing that Rob loves him some oysters, I nabbed that puppy. Did he want to go for Father's Day? He did. So last night, for dinner, we went there for the first time.


Things started out not terrific and got worse from there. Smokers lined the main entrance, which put me in an instant foul mood. I'm sorry, but it's gross, and I hate breathing it in and thinking of my children doing the same. Plus it gives me a horrible headache.  Then there was a live band playing mostly metal covers, which isn't my thing, but so what. They were much, much too loud, though, and the kids kept putting their fingers in their ears. I thought it was amusing, so I didn't make them stop. The band wasn't that great, either, but again, so what, we weren't paying for the show.

The five of us were seated right away at a four-top, so Chloë had to sit at the end of a table. There were six- and eight-tops available, so in my head I wondered why we weren't seated at one of those... until a poker team came in and started setting up at those two tables. Ah. Poker. I see.

We ordered shortly after we were given our menus, which wasn't at first because who knows why, and then we proceeded to wait more than 40 minutes for our food. I ordered a Diet Coke and was given a Diet Pepsi, with no warning that it wasn't what I had ordered. Hello, Diet Pepsi tastes like toothpaste. It is bad. I asked, "Is this Pepsi?"  She affirmed. "Oh, yeah, I can't do that, sorry. I'll just have some water." She smiled and brought me some water with lemon. With lots of seeds in it. Usually, I think, they take out the seeds. At least, they should. I sucked one up in my straw. And swallowed it. Maybe I'll have lemons growing in there.

Let's see, what else... while we waited, we each visited the rest rooms. Nothing sticks out in my head about those, so I guess they were fine, except we had to do the hokey-pokey around the sticking-out poker tables to get there, which wasn't awesome. The kids played with the soft-tip dart machine until Sophia started climbing the board to get the darts out, and I had to put a stop to that action. They were quickly becoming BORED and STARVING and CRANKY. Really, just what you want in three kids at a restaurant. Where was the food?!!

Meanwhile, the whole time, I'm posting on Facebook about the damn smokers going in and out of the main only entrance and parking themselves RIGHT THERE, so that we still had to breathe in their godawful odors the whole time anyway. Seriously, there has to be a law. Oh, wait, I looked it up. There is. Unless there is a separate entrance just for non-smokers, it is illegal in Virginia to smoke standing outside the entrance of a restaurant or other business. I didn't find what the distance was, but I bet I could now that I'm not on my iPhone, with a little due diligence.

Finally, the food came. Well, everyone's did except for mine. They gave Sophia Jack's burger and Jack Sophia's grilled cheese. Whining ensued. I smiled and switched the plates. (Competent servers know who gets what without auctioning off the plates or, like this, just setting them down wherever the feck they feel like it.) She asked me, "Do you need any silverware?" I smiled and said, "I... need my food." She walked off kind of huffily. But hey, it's not like anyone said to me, "Your sandwich will be right out," or any such thing. And I did smile. Nicely, I might add.

After another 7 or so minutes, my broiled crabcake sandwich was put in front of me, with all manner of produce piled on top of it. I unpiled the lettuce, and the onion, and the tomato, and found.. a very burnt crabcake. Was it fried? No, it was broiled. To oblivion. The server came back after another half-century, and I pointed out my extra-crispy crabby patty. I don't know what I said, but it was something like, "I... I'm not happy with this," in my apologetic tone. I can behave, you know. And I still was.

She agreed. I mean, how could she not? Picture a dog turd. It looked like that, only with flecks of green on top.  Very dark, kind of La Mush, and not shaped terribly well.  She asked if I wanted a fresh batch of onion rings or just the sandwich remade. I said I didn't care. I was starting to be a grump.

Meanwhile, it was 35¢ chicken wing night, like every Sunday according to the sign, so we had a half-dozen hot ones for Rob and a half-dozen salt-and-vinegar ones for me. With Ranch dressing for dipping. Now those were good. No complaints there. Actually, they were really good. So they get some things right, apparently. And Rob's oyster po'boy was just right, too. Let me point out the other good things: Yup. Nope. That's all I got. Oh, well, and the prices were great, and the kids' meals were okay. Except none of them would eat theirs. Except for the fries.

I tried the fries. They were... not good. Not one speck of salt, which, to me, is a must in a fry that's Frenchly made, and when I salted them, it wouldn't stick to them, either. WTF. I'm sorry, McDonald's is gross and all, but they make some damn good fries. Other restaurants should emulate their greasy, salty tastiness. That is a good fry. Fries that are all dark and hard and NOT salty are not good fries. And that is the whole truth and nothing but.

So I'm waiting for my crabcake sandwich to come back out, watching the poker players disappear out the front door every 30 seconds for a cig (honestly, why not just move the tables out there, since you're spending most of your time there anyway?) and finishing off the vinegar-y wings of deliciousness. The repeat dish was finally brought out, at which point I just asked for a box. Still nicely. I was just full. Of wings.

Everyone else was just about finished, since they weren't eating much anyway - except Rob, who was plum full of oyster po'boy like he likes to be. I said, "No dessert" and for once got nary a complaint. Apparently I wasn't the only one who wanted outta there.

Finally, my boxed meal and the check were brought out. I politely informed the server that they were in violation of Virginia's anti-smoking laws and that I would be following up with them to make sure they came into compliance. I made no mention of who I was or why that job was up to me, but she got all bitchtastic about it and sputtered some things sarcastically that I couldnt' hear because of the too-loud suckilicious band playing on the other side of the restaurant. I just knew, from her expression and the bit of tone I could catch, that it wasn't so nice.

We got our boxes, and my camera and purse, and I paid the tab. Which wasn't much, thanks to that certificate that had brought us there in the first place. I even left a rather respectable tip. And then we walked to our van.


When I turned around to take a picture of the entrance, the one or two smokers had turned into ten or twelve, lined up and giving me the finger with their eyeballs!

That picture is the only one that turned out clear, because as I snapped away, they all ran and hid, back in the restaurant, which made me cackle in a rather malicious way. I hate inconsiderate smokers. I really do. You rarely run into a considerate one, but I appreciate those that are.

And so we left and went home to have our Family Meeting, which went swell, thanks.

So... how was YOUR day?


P.S. For the sake of this review, as it were, I just went in and tasted a couple bites of the crab cake. It LOOKS much better, but it's so orange with Old Bay seasoning that I didn't have high expectations for taste. I was right. It's got so much seasoning and fillers that I could not even taste the slightest bit of crabbiness. Not one bit. I'll stick to Uncle Chuck, the fishmonger down at the Farmer's Market, thanks.



My Name, It Is Melanie

... But some days, it could be changed to "Melancholy." Like this weekend. Saturday, the 18th, was my gran'pappy's 85th birthday, and I was a little weepy with missing him and not being able to call and offer my well-wishes and love.

And today was Father's Day, of course, so I again wasn't able to call Grandpa and wish him a happy day. Furthermore, it would've been my own parents' 40th anniversary. I talked to my dad about it, and the two of us got weepy together. We both admitted to the other that sometimes, it's okay to think about sad things for a minute and move on, but other times, if you need to, it's okay to wallow in the sad thing and just allow yourself to feel all the feelings that it brings. Don't you think?

So while I've had a day of celebrating Father's Day with the dad of my own four children, those things have been tugging at my heartstrings and, well, making me melancholy.


...However, so far it could NOT be changed to "Melanoma," a nickname one of my high school BFFs bestowed upon me way back when. I went to the doctor last week to have a skin cancer screening, because I've had a number of spots causing me serious consternation for a little while now. But I'm in the clear! I do have a number of things on me with long names I can't remember, but nothing that gave the dermatologist (who was quite hot, thank you very much) pause.  Whew!


...Immediately after the derm., I visited the endocrinologist for a bone density screening, since I'm technically in menopause. (April 9, 2008: Hysterectomy, with total removal except for one ovary, if you're keeping track of my medical history. And I know you are.) Everything looked okay except for my hips, which are non-dense. I was prescribed to walk more often and take a 'D' supplement, which I'm supposed to do anyway.

I don't have a "Melan...density" nickname to go along with that paragraph, sorry; I just felt I should share that since, well, I know you worry about me being dense.  Am I dense? Quite, thank you.

I'll be back later. Maybe. I don't feel tired, so I think I'll bake the cake that's due Wednesday and stick it in the freezer, and then come back and write some more stuff. M'Kay? So come back and read it, if you will be so kind.


Sunday Stealing: Seriously Random Meme, Part II

Fathers day 

Link up here if you played along today!

21. Have you ever had a garage sale?

Yeah, a lot as a kid and once or twice as a grown up. I hate it. Probably won't do it again anytime soon.

22. What color is your cell phone?

Black iPhone 4

23. What is the last alcoholic beverage you had?

About 5 shots of some kind of sweet rum, Friday night. I was so toasted!

24. Are you happy right now?

I'm aiight.

25. Who came over to your house last?

No one, it was just us. A cake customer came over on Friday night and brought the afore-mentioned rum. We did the shots together while I finished up his cake order. I've decided that probably wasn't very professional of me, but it was fun nonetheless!

26. Do you drink beer?

Ick, no.

27. Have your brothers or sisters ever told you that you were adopted?


28. What is your favorite key on your key chain?

Really? People do that?

29. What was the last movie you watched at home?

The documentary Tapped. Y'all should watch it, especially if you're still drinking bottled water.

30. What is in your pocket?

No pockets.

31. Who introduced you to your husband?

A singles website.

32. Where do you hurt?

In my head and my heart. Otherwise, I'm good right now.

33. Has someone ever made you a Build-a-Bear?

No, but my kids have their own... I'd rather make my own, too, if that were my thing. But it's not.

34. What’s something fun you did today?

Took a family walk around the lake and watched the kids catch toads, chase ducks and geese (not that I didn't reprimand them for that), and throw a found football around.

35. What is your favorite aisle at Target?

Oooh, that's a meany, I love Target! Maybe the one with all the Choxie. ;)

36. When is your birthday?

9.8.76 - I kid you not. And most people still forget it.

37. Is there anything hanging from your rear view mirror?

My high school and college tassels.

38. How many states in the US have you been to?

Maybe 20-25, I don't know, and I don't feel like walking over to the map and counting right now. :P

39. What kind of milk do you drink?

Skim, if anything. Although I do steal the kids' fatty milk for my coffee sometimes.

40. What are you going to do after this?

Try and talk myself into cleaning the downstairs bathroom. We'll see...




Saturday 9: You May Be Right


A day late... link up here if you played along!

1. What is the craziest thing you've done in the last year?

Started my own custom cakery on a whim (and a prayer), in April!

2. What is something that you've lost recently?

The visual hallucinations I'd been having, thanks to an increased dose of Abilify... heh.

3. Where does your patience suffer the most?

I like things done the way I want them, when I want them, which is like 2 seconds after I ask. I don't have the patience to wait and wait while the other person is literally sitting there doing nothing, and I can't proceed with my thing until they've done their thing. Really? Don't get me started. I'm not a very patient person. Hubs will agree.

4. Have you ever re-read a book?

Yes, but very rarely. I've re-read Evergreen by Belva Plain, the Anne of Green Gables series, and a few others, not counting children's books, of course.

5. What is a TV show that you absolutely HATE to miss?

Well, now that we haven't had regular TV service in a year and a half, it's a moot point, but I really miss Dexter and The Big Bang Theory!

6. How old do you wish you were?

I'm happy with my current age. I actually enjoy the aging process. It's fascinating to me.

7. Do you know your neighbors?

Yes, on both sides and many around us.

8. Do you believe that opposites attract?

Yes, oft-times they do, although that doesn't necessarily mean they will last...

9. Who was the last person that made you laugh?

My son, Jack River. He's 8 and for the last couple of months, he's become funnier each day. It's awesome.




Aloha Friday


Link up here if you're playing along with Kailani!

So my question for you this week is:

Assume you're paying top-dollar for someone to decorate a big, fancy cake for you, and for whatever reason, there has to be a trade-off somewhere between looking great and tasting delicious. Which would be more important to you?

Hopefully, I'm accomplishing both in my cake biz, but since I don't eat the product, I hope for delicious and aim for beauty.

Thanks for stopping by! Have a great weekend.


Girl Scouts Day At Ocean Breeze Waterpark


 For Sophia and Chloë's troops' year-end wrap-up party, we decided to attend the Girl Scout Day at the local waterpark. Sophia and I got there first, while Rob ran Chloë to her dance rehearsal for the big June Show coming up next week. Anyway, we waited and waited for the park to open, and everyone else who was coming to get there, while I did the potty dance the whole time. I rilly, rilly had to go!

But that's besides the point.

When we got in, we found there were stations for the Daisies, more for the Brownies, more still for the Juniors, and so on up the ranks. The Junior troop girls mostly hung out as a group, while the Daisies split up with their parents and did whatever. We were to meet around noon to line up for lunch, so we had two hours on our own. I dragged Sophia around from station to station, trying to do the right thing and participate in the Girl Scout-only activities. She hated it, every minute of it. I say, in the future, that we skip Girl Scout Day and just go on our own! Or go somewhere else. But anyway...


Okay, so some of the stations were more active and fun, but what Sophia REALLY wanted to do was get in the water. She did nothing but complain about wanting to swim. And who could blame her? I mean, it was right THERE, like a tease, while we did the Girl Scout activities.


She did have fun playing "Lifeguard Says,"...


... and of course, she's always up for a cool tattoo. This is Hugh Mongous, the mascot of the waterpark.

(Meanwhile, this whole time, Chloë was still at dance until right before lunch.)


Chloë arrived around 11:30, so I had her change and then join Sophia and me for another station. This time, they tied two simple knots and called it done. Lame!


The rest of the Juniors and Daisies, save one, joined us for yet another lame station, in which they had to come up with their OWN game to demonstrate water safety rules, using the materials provided. None of them, or us, could think of anything, so they just hula hooped and threw the stuff around until we decided to move on to Octopus Tag at the next station. 


Octopus Tag was basically Freeze Tag, except the "It" person had to wear a lei. Hey, don't ask me, I was just the dumbass holding the camera.


Finally, they called us over for lunch, which was super chintzy. And, well, too snacky and non-nutritious, in my opinion. Further lameness. 


After lunch, we (our two troops) all met in front of the Hugh Mongous statue for photos. I had to take a bunch, but they all turned out cute. Too bad I have to block the smiling faces of all our pretty girls!


The hot dad who was there took the camera for a picture of me and Miss N, Chloë's troop leader, and Miss D, my new co-leader. Do you recognize me in the middle, with no hair?!


Sophia and little G were climbing on Hugh's gigantimous foot on our way back to the waterpark. See Sophia's curls at the bottom of her hair? She gets them when it's hot and humid. Love them!

After lunch, we all went our separate ways again. Chloë went to hang out with the Juniors, leaving me to play with Sophia for a couple hours. We had a freakin' BLAST! Sophia is so brave and adventurous, so we went down grown-up slide after slide, with and without tubes - all separately! She would go on one slide, and I'd either be ahead of her to help "catch" her (but not really, just to show moral support), or I'd go on the sister slide to meet her at the bottom. She couldn't wear a life vest, but that was fine because she can really swim now! She would plunk! down into the water, pop up, and immediately start swimming toward the ladder. I was bursting with pride, and she was beaming. So fun.


Unfortunately, we had to cut our fun short and go home, after spending over an hour in the First Aid room, when Sophia sprained her ankle. Rob and Jack showed up, and we took her to the ER. I napped in the car with Chloë while she had x-rays taken and all that.  Turns out, she's got a possible fracture that even the radiologist couldn't verify, so we have to take her to see an orthopaedics specialist. I'll call them tomorrow and see when I can get her in.


On the upside, they gave us free tickets to come back to the waterpark another time, so at least we'll recoup some of the lost fun time. 

As for Sophia, she's had that softish cast-like thing on and off her foot repeatedly today, and sometimes she limps, and sometimes she walks normally, so I tend to think it's probably not broken and she'll be fine. But still, mah po' bay-bay!!

That is all.


Shut Your Large Mouth, Bass!


So this guy. Rob took the kids fishing at the little lake across the street last night, while I ... took a nap. He's been doing that quite often with them lately, which they absolutely love. Well, Jack came tearing in the house to tell me that "Sophia" caught a big fish and I had to!! I was like, "Um, okay, no thanks," and went back to sleep until Rob and the girls ran in with, well, this guy. Which Rob immediately put in a storage tote of MINE (humph) and filled with fresh water, so they could stare at it and look at it and touch it and stuff.


Really, here's the girl who landed The Big Fish. Daddy helped. Just like he's helping her lift it up here, for her official fish photo.


That smile is genuine. When she first caught 'im, she was so glad, she actually cried.


When she could no longer hold him, Daddy took Big Fish back to the lake and released him. He reportedly swam off immediately, with no hesitation, so I was relieved. It's a catch-and-release program we're running here, folks. Not that I'm against Bob-and-the-Gang fishing for our dinner, but out of that lake? Not quite edible.

Hopefully we'll get his fishing license soon, and we can take the kids out to the dock on the ocean for some fishing and crabbing. Should be a blast!


Family Meeting, The First


So as part of the parenting course we're doing, we have begun having weekly family meetings on Sunday evenings. Kind of like the 10 minutes of "mind, body and soul time" that each parent is supposed to have with each kid per day, this is whole-family MBS time. Tonight, we had our first meeting.



The kids didn't really "get it" at first, but when I explained that it would be fun, no one would get yelled at, and there were snacks involved, well, everyone rushed to grab a seat on the couch.

At first, Family Meeting agendas comprise five things:

1. Compliments and Appreciation


Since I was running this first meeting, I was the first to dole out the C & A to Rob and each of the kids. They listened eagerly for their remarks, smiled gratefully, and generally enjoyed hearing about themselves.  Daddy went next, and then it was the kids' turns. They really clammed up, so we had to help them out a whole lot, and Jack felt so shy about speaking up that he cried. After we let him hold Cupcake, he felt more comfortable with sharing his compliments with us. It was a nice exchange overall, though, and I know they look forward to doing it again next Sunday.

2. Calendar



This is where we go over what everyone has coming up for the next week. Pretty straight-forward. I took the big calendar off the wall and let Chloë write down the important stuff on it, and she enjoyed having that job. Everyone gets a job at Family Meeting.

3. Allowance

I made special envelopes out of newspaper pages to present the kids their money, with a sticker on the outside to represent the recipient. They liked that. I'll probably do something different each week, to make it fun. They each received $2.00. When I have the money, I'm going to get each of them one of these from Amazon (unless you know where I can get them for cheaper?):

Piggy savings

And I'll probably offer a matching donation and savings amount, when we get them, too. They were muy excited about getting allowance. It's about time we did that.

4. Snack time


This time, snack was Rice Krispie Treats, because I didn't get motivated to make the brownies Jack wanted in time. He was cool with that, though. They are on a RKT kick lately, since our Thursday road trip to Woodbridge. Brownies next week, I hope!

5. Family Fun Time


Fun Time can be anything from a burping contest to a big outing, and since I didn't have anything planned ahead of time, we decided on a big TickleFest. They looked forward to that through the whole meeting! So that helped to keep things moving.

There was a list of Ground Rules for Family Meeting, and there are things we'll add to the meetings as we get going, so let me know in the comments here if you're interested in incorporating this in your own family and need the details.

Rob and I both agreed that it went really well and will be great for our family, so I'm really excited about it.






Late last Tuesday night, I got a frantic email from a friend of mine. Another friend of hers, C, had four kittens that she was giving away the next day to the SPCA if they weren't taken. Did anyone want them?

True or not, I didn't care, because I'd been wanting to add a third kitty to our brood. So, after confirming that there was a female, I went out and picked up this little cutie the next day. I thought about naming her Topaz, because of her honey-colored stripes, but the rest of Team Odette quickly nixed that idea. The kids like "Caramel," but I didn't like that so much. So, a quick post on Facebook later, and "Cupcake" was suggested to us. We haven't quite gotten used to the name, but I think it's the one we have finally, officially settled on.


Cupcake definitely does not lack for attention amongst our trio of offspring, that's for sure. And she is a LOUD 3-month-old kitten, so when she's had enough, she yells about it loud and clear!


I often rescue Cupcake from her miniature captors, to give her a break - and a nap. She likes naps. Lots and lots of naps. 


She wasn't really asleep here; she just didn't appreciate the flash of light in her wee little eyes!


And here's cupcake on her daddy's lap today, demonstrating feline tonic immobility. (Look it up; it's a shark thing.)

So, five days in, and we are madly in love with the little furball. She's a keeper!


And speaking of cats and kittens, um, our cat Star might be pregnant. We thought she came to us already 'fixed,' but apparently that might not be the case. Stay tuned for a stork report!

(No, they are not at ALL intended to be outdoor cats, but with the AC out of commission, we've kept the windows open, and the cats have clawed themselves through the screens in both the front AND the back of the house. ARGH!)

More posts a-comin'!


Sunday Stealing: Seriously Random Meme, Part One

Sunday Stealing 

Link up here, playas!

1. Your ex's car is on the side of the road, on fire. What do you do?

Well, pull over and help, of course. What kind of person do you think I am?!

2. Your best friend tells you she is pregnant. What is your reaction?

Extremely delighted for her!

3. When is the last time you wanted to punch someone in the face?

I can't remember a time in recent memory.

4. What is the last thing you spent money on?

Pistachios and three small Airheads candies for my kids.

5. Do you think you gained or lost weight this past month?

Lost, definitely. Thankfully!

6. Crunchy or Puffy Cheetos?

Yeah I want some cheesy poofs! I prefer the crunchy ones.

7. The first person on your friends list just called you a bitch. What do you do?

Cry for six years.

8. Congratulations! You just had a son. What’s his name?

I have a Jack River and a Robert William. Pick one. If I had another one, he'd either be Sebastian James or Jasper James.

9. Congratulations! You just had a daughter. What’s her name?

I have a Chloë Raine and a Sophia Lorelei. If I had another one, she'd be Victoria Jane.

10. What are you craving right now?

Chinese food. Or Key Lime Pie.

11. What was the last thing you cried about?

My friend, Jenny from the Block, helping me get to a "breakthrough" point with realiziing some things about my mom and ex-stepmother, on Thursday's road trip. (See previous post.)

12. When you buy something and your change is 2 cents, do you keep it or tell the cashier to keep it?

I keep that sh*t!

13. What color is your tissue box?

Orangey swirls.

14. Do you have a ceiling fan in your bedroom, and if so, is there dust on that fan?

Yes, and hell yes.

15. What was the last voicemail you received about?

It was my dad, telling me to look up some webpage about cool space pictures. Thanks for the reminder.

16. Have you ever blocked someone on Facebook?

Yep, sure did.

17. Scariest thing you’ve experienced in the last year?

Being bi-polar, scary things happen all the damn time. But they're usually in my psyche.

18. Do you wear a name tag at work?

No, my kids know who I am.

19. What kind of car do you want?

A little bitty Smart For Two. ♥

20. What do you order when you go to Burger King?

I never, ever, ever, ever go to Burger King. Ever.


Worth The Trip, Or Waste Of Gas?

You decide:

So on Tuesday of this past week, I received a phone call from a prize claim center, saying that I had won a sweepstakes.  My scam radar alert was high, but I continued to listen anyway. The prize that I was "guaranteed" to win was one of these four things, and this is the order they were described to me: 

2009-ford-escape-hybrid-01 (1)

First prize: A 2011 Ford Escape SUV Hybrid (woo!)  


Second prize: A trip to A, B, or C (I forget), with airfare and hotel included


Third prize: $2,500 cash, or


Fourth prize: A 32" LCD flat-screen TV

But the catch was, we had to drive up to Woodbridge, VA, which is just outside of D.C. three hours away, to claim my prize. Could we be there at 6:00 PM on Thursday night? 

Uh... sure. We have no money for gas, no current, regular, reliable babysitter, and other plans, but yeah, I'll be there. *snort*

I told Rob about it later. He was very skeptical. Knowing everything I had heard on the phone, I knew I was either going to get the trip, which I couldn't sell, or a really crappy TV. We decided that since we didn't have the gas money, we wouldn't go, but then his June 1st payment came through that night, a week late, at last... 


So Thursday came, and I still didn't have a sitter for the kids. Long story short, the kids and I went to our sorta-weekly gardening class at a friend's house that we know from the co-op we attended earlier in the year, as planned. Of the other three mothers in attendance, I inquired as to whether they had a babysitter who would be available that day. As in, from 2-10 PM, or so. 

None of them did, but Jenny from the Block, one of the moms, said she could watch them for us. Woot! 


So it was time for me to leave the gardening-slash-pool-slash-knitting party, and I went to go put the children's car seats in Jenny from the Block's van. We chatted for a brief second and then I blurted out, "Why don't you and the kids (G and M) come with us?" She was all, "yeah, let's do that!" and so they did. 

My minivan was full to the brim, after we met at my (piece of crap, dilapidated, overly-cluttered little) townhouse and switched kids and carseats around to fit Chloë, Jack, M, Sophia, and G, Rob, Jenny from the Block, and me as the driver. Plus all our stuff. I neglected to take a picture, but it was something like this:


Those being sardines, you get the idear.

So we barely had any time to spare to get up to Woodbridge in time, once we were all settled in. I stepped on it and hauled butt, but you know, with five kids under the age of 10, one of whom (Sophia) has an upset tummy, there are bound to be eleventy-hundred potty breaks. And there were. 


So when it was down to the wire, a quarter 'til six - which was what time I was supposed to be there to check in - we were still a good 17 minutes I way. I pushed down on the gas a little harder. Drove a little more aggressively, the way I learned to drive in Miami, without being alarming about it. At 6:02, I pulled up to the hotel, threw my keys at Jenny from the Block, and dashed in to the check-in area. If they sent me home, I was ready to pull out the claws, but they were all super-nice and welcoming. Whew.

Rob and Jenny from the Block came in, got some kids potty for the billionth time, and then he came over and checked in, while I chewed nervously on my lower lip. It was all rush-rush-rush for the past several hours, so it was hard for me to settle down, even though everything was now all right. You get like that, too?


Once they seated us in the room with the other couples who were all over a certain age and income level, and I had a chance to look around, I knew what was going to happen: It was going to be like a timeshare presentation, except for Gold Crown Resorts, which is like a BJs or Costco for vacations. We'd get the hard sell, say "no" a hundred times, and then they would hand me a dying plant or a $5 McDonald's gift certificate, and send me on my way.


And that's what it was, exactly. Lively presentation, where you're hit with the "big-money-but-here's-why-it's-worth-it" comedian-type running the show, and then five different "Managers" come sit down and tell you why you can't possibly turn down one great deal after another. They even brought a guy named "Miracle" out. I had made Rob do all the talking, but when he looked like he had just eaten some bad fish,


I finally blurted out, "Look, we really CAN'T do it right now. It sounds great, and we'd love to, but we CAN'T."


They "gifted us out" right after that. I had to pick a card, scratch off the gold center, and my prize would be revealed.

Since it was a vacation club, there was absolutely zero surprise when my "prize" turned out to be ... a vacation! Duh, it wouldn't cost them a damn thing. The card with the 2011 hybrid probably only got presented to those who joined the club (and some did, that night), I'm thinking.

Anyway, we shook hands, left the room, and walked down the hill to go claim our children and rescue Jenny from the Block. She had her hands full - as fifteen people who saw her trying to negotiate her way to a table with meals for all of them at Chick-fil-A so kindly pointed out. She was all, "They're not all mine!"


So here's what the vacation I "won" could turn out to be, depending on what we pick:

A. 2-night accommodations for 2 adults and up to 2 children in your choice of over 22 popular locations. (22? Really?! I'll be!)

B. 4-day, 3-night fun-filled cruise for 2 adults.

C. 3 nights all-inclusive stay in select locations in Jamaica for 2 adults. (I know what that means. Goats will be sharing our suite.)

D. 2 nights' accommodations and airfare for 2 adults to Orlando, FL, Las Vegas, NV, or Cancun or Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. (Like I'd pick Orlando. And we don't gamble...)

E. 4 nights accommodations in choice of 4 Mexico locations for 2 adults (but you don't fly free!)

F. 4-night Florida vacation for 2 adults and up to 2 children. (pass. Been there, just did that.)

G. 8-day, 7-night condo stay in resort accommodations in one of over 3,000 available resorts. 2 adults and up to 2 guests.

H. 4-day, 3-night accommodations in the Bahamas with round-trip cruise transportation for 2 adults. (Bah. Bahamas = Teh Suck.)


At first, we were thinking of doing G, and picking somewhere nearby like the Outer Banks or Williamsburg or something, but now I'm taking a closer look at one of the Mexican options in D. The only question is, who would watch the kids for those three days? Hmmm? Takers? They're a challenge, but them sure is cute!


We have, like, three weeks to decide. 

In the end, we had a fun adventure, and Jenny from the Block and I got to chatter away for six nearly-uninterrupted hours about our lives, our kids, our issues, and so much else. Since she was a therapist in her past life, she really made me see things differently about a number of things that have caused me trouble. Hopefully, it wasn't all a take-take-take conversation, and she got some good out of it, too.

Since no kids got carsick, I call it a WIN.