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Entries from September 2011

Saturday 9: Sleeping to Dream


Linky-link here to play along with Crazy Sam today!

1. Do you ever go to sleep to simply dream?
Nah. I go to sleep to, uh, get some rest.
2. When you’re having trouble staying awake, what are some things you do to make sure you don’t drift off to sleep?
Overdose on the caffeine and listen to music. Loudly.
3. What’s most likely to cause you a prolonged period of not enough sleep?
Stress and the afore-mentioned caffeine.
4. When you’re going through a prolonged period of not enough sleep, what parts of your daily routine are likely to change, and how?
We homeschool, so when I *really* can't sleep and am exhausted, I give the kids a day off. They, um, really don't mind that so much. I'm glad for the flexibility.
5. In what ways does your personality change when you go through a prolonged period of not enough sleep?
Like anyone else, I imagine, I get stressed more easily (read: bitchy).
6. Who in your life seems regularly to have not enough sleep?

Me, and my daughter Sophia, age 6½. She has my sleeping personality.

7. When you're sleeping, do your closer friends tend to be male or female? Why do you think that is?

I fail to see the relevance of the two parts of that question. Huh? Used to be, all my friends were male, but I have a lot more female friends now.
8. If you could wake up tomorrow with a new talent, what would it be?
Oh, flying. I know I can fly. I just know it. I dream I can all the time...
9. In a dream, is your past something that you can go back to?
No, I tend to dream about the future, and I often dream mundane conversations and interactions that then come to pass. Maybe I'm psychic, but it happens a lot. Not lately, though.
Have a great weekend!
P.S. If you would like to place a Jafra order or host a book party in the month of October, you get double hostess rewards and 10% donated to the Susan G. Komen breast cancer research foundation in your name. By the way, in a couple hours, I'll be placing another order, so holler if you want something! ;)

Aloha Friday


I'm late again! It's been SUCH a busy week, and I'm glad it's almost over. Anyhoo, link up with Kailani here if you're asking questions today!

My question for you this week is:

Have you ever had an MRI?

I'm asking because my 6yo daughter, Sophia, had to have one yesterday. I know it's not a serious procedure (necessarily), like a surgery or whatev, but I couldn't help myself. I bawled when they wheeled her away, unconscious from sedation, and about three more times while she was gone. My baby!! I have also had one myself, about 12 or 13 years ago, when I was stuck in a ten-year cycle of daily migraines. (They didn't find anything wrong with my noggin, but of course it's too soon to tell about Sophia.)

So... you?

Hope you all have a fantastic weekend. Happy October!


P.S. You have until 8 PM EST tonight to take advantage of my 20% off your initial order from my site, Jafra Cosmetics International. We have a 100% satisfaction guarantee, so there's no risk!

Sunday Stealing: That Meme That's Going Around


Link up here if you're a thief today, too!

A. Age:

Just turned 35!

B. Bed size:


C. Chore that you hate:


D. Dogs:

None at the moment (four cats), but I am technically a "dog person"

E. Essential start to your day:

Caffeine, preferably in the form of Diet Coke

F. Favorite color:

Blue-green, turquoise, aquamarine - the color of the middle depths of the sea

G. Gold or Silver:

I prefer copper.

H. Height:


I. Instruments you play:

Vocal chords

J. Job title:

CHO: Chief Household Officer

K. Kids:

Three living, one in heaven

L. Live:

Uh, yes, I am?

M. Mother's name:

It was Karen Joyce. Now that's my niece's name.

N. Nicknames:


O. Overnight hospital stays:

Too many to list!

P. Pet peeve:

Also too many to list, but I really hate being behind a driver turning right, who practically comes to a stop first. Just GO already!

Q. Quote from a movie:

"Just put your pickle on the plate, college boy, and leave the hard stuff to me." - Dirty Dancing

R. Right or left handed:

Technically I'm a righty, but I'm ambi in a lot of ways. I write better backward with my left hand, like Leonardo da Vinci.

S. Siblings:

One sister, one half-sister whom I've never met, and two former stepsisters with whom I no longer speak

T. Time you wake up:

Totally varies. I should probably try to wake up at the same time each day... but I don't.

U. Underwear:

I wear it. I don't get thongs. How irritating - literally!

V. Vegetable you hate:

I like most of them... Not a big fan of bell peppers, though.

W. What makes you run late:

The kids, usually!

X. X-Rays you've had:

Numerous. I've broken my pinky toe three times but only had it confirmed by x-ray the first time. After that, I just "knew."

Y. Yummy food that you make:

I make some damn good cookies!

Z. Zoo animal:

Elephants are my favorite. ♥

Have a good week, y'all!


Jamestown Settlement & Yorktown Victory Center

Eight and a half years. That's how long we've lived here. But we've never done the whole colonial thing, even last year when we first started homeschooling and were heavily involved in doing field trips (by my design), so I decided to go ahead and do it (Jamestown and Yorktown) this year while we had the chance. (We'll do Colonial Williamsburg, which is distinct from this program, later in the school year.) The homeschool days run from 10 to 25 September, so technically we still have two more days, since you get unlimited access to both locations with your tickets, but we'll have to pass since we're quite literally out of gas, and it's an hour or so drive to each location & the programs are only on weekdays. (And yes, I know that was a huge run-on sentence. I don't care.)

Along with your unlimited admission, you get one class per child plus one family tour at each location, so it was an awesome deal that I couldn't pass up. While Rob was off work last week, we went up on Tuesday to do the Jamestown location. Unfortunately, I misjudged traffic, so we missed our 0900 classes and had to reschedule them. We did so for yesterday (Friday) when we finally did get there, along with scheduling Yorktown tour and classes for Thursday (two days ago), once I understood that you get classes and tour for both locations, not either/or.

Anyway. So there's your background. Time for photos!


Team Odette at the fountain outside Jamestown Settlement, minus moi of course


Near the fountain, the flag path was representative of all 50 states... we didn't get a close enough look to see if territories were represented, too, but I don't think so.


Right after that, my Nikon battery died (and as usual, I forgot the replacement), so the rest of the pictures from that day were using the iPhone Instagram app, which I lurve.

Heading into the museum


We did manage to get our family tour that day, of the Powhatan Village, and this was our fabulous guide, Mary. She was excellent.


So that we didn't get mobbed by the other groups touring at the same time, Mary took us down to the ships, first. The is the Susan Constant, which we later boarded.


Mary really brought to life what it was like for the early colonists traveling to the New World from England. Here, she's showing them the routes and explaining what life was like on the ship during that time. She was entertaining and enthusiastic, never boring. (Listen to me, like I'm doing a mystery shop report. Hee.)


More ships. I apologize for the darkness of the photograph; I guess my 'save' in Picasa didn't take... Anyway, I think this is the Godspeed, with Discovery in the back.


Aboard the Susan Constant, on the bridge where only the captain was normally allowed unless he invited someone up personally. Lucky us.


There were re-enactors throughout the Settlement, of course, and they're there to be engaged. Here, one "sailor" was sewing a bag, and the kids talked to him about life during the long trans-Atlantic voyage back in the 1600s.


A powder keg, down below - not really filled now, of course


We made our way toward the Powhatan Village then. Here, Mary tells us how the Powhatans would burn down the trees, since they didn't have metal axes like the English, to chop down a tree for making canoes. Then they would char one side and scrape the inside out with oyster shells.


A Powhatan re-enactor talking to the kids about his job in the tribe


In the English settlement, life was hard, too. Mary tells about how the settlers survived, what they did in their daily lives, and let a female re-enactor talk to us briefly before we moved on.


This woman talked about how she may have had to constantly be sewing, repairing clothing (as opposed to sails, like the sailor on the Susan Constant) and repurposing material as things wore out.

Mary explains how they disposed of their artifacts, which turned out to be beneficial for those of us who came later and found them.


Real tobacky, drying on the ceiling, like it would have been back then. It's long been a cash crop here.


(Real) meat curing in another building - Each year, I think she said at Thanksgiving time, they actually butcher a pig in the village, in front of everyone, and cure the meat for the following year's tourists... eww. I don't think I want to revisit for that occasion.


This re-enactor thoroughly explained how his gun worked, fired two shots (LOUD!) and told us when to take the picture (a second or two after the firing). The kids loved this part. I got pictures, but they're missing...hmmm.


Inside the settlers' church, Mary explained how they took frequent breaks to "worship," whether they wanted to or not, and if they missed a session, their food was taken away. That'll teach 'em to miss church!


Here we are, approaching the Powhatan Yehakins, the homes they built. Nope, not all "Indians" lived in teepee structures, but you knew that.


Furs drying everywhere inside one yehakin


Mary explaining how they used oyster shells, once again, but this time to scrape the fur off the skins, so they were useable for clothing and other things, like pouches


Raffia was twisted to make rope. Each family was given a piece, so the children could learn how to do this. We messed ours up, so Mary stepped in to assist!


This Powhatan re-enactor showed us how deer antlers, rocks, and other found objects were used to make effective, strong tools and weapons.


Oh, and bone was used, too...I left that out. So, every part of the deer (or whatever animal they could catch) was used by the Powhatan.


That concluded our tour, so we went inside to use the powder rooms and found this big list on the wall of the earlist Jamestown settlers. Pretty cool, especially if you can read some of their names.

We went home for lunch after that, and we missed our Yorktown visit this past Thursday. I was just too exhausted after co-op on Wednesday, so we skipped it. Plus, we wouldn't have had the gas to go both days anyway. So we went up to Yorktown Victory Center on Friday (yesterday) to take in as much as we could, before heading back to Jamestown Settlement for the kids' classes.


Obligatory arrival pose ;P


In contrast to the 50 state flags at Jamestown, Yorktown's entrance featured flags from the 13 original colonies.


We checked in quickly and then were sent outside to explore as much as we could before the rains came. Before we got started on the tour, I informed the surprised kids that it was the first day of Autumn already. Then we found all these leaves already fallen, with more dropping while I took the picture(s). Hey, Mother Nature - slow down, will ya?


The self-guided tour we took was of the long, outdoor timeline explaining the events leading up to the start of the Revolutionary War. I think I did a pretty good job of explaining each part to the kids, if I do say so myself. We talked about duties/taxes, why the settlers didn't appreciate that so much, and how it was that each side (English vs. Colonists) became so angry at each other. The kids really seemed to get into it and understand, and Sophia relived the story for me later on the long three-hour drive home through the pouring rain. I explained to the kids how important this quote was, and they really got it. I told them they'd probably hear it again many times over the courses of their lives!


Amen! We also discussed whether the kids would rather have a King or a President, and why. They all eventually came to the conclusion that having a President is better - though first Sophia chose King/Queen, probably because it's a more romanticized idea in her mind. (She's fixated lately on the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton.)


We talked about how the colonists pulled down the equestrian lead statue of King George and melted down the metal to make bullets for fighting the British. What ingenuity!


Representative bullets from the statue


The mold for making the bullets


I realized later I wasn't supposed to be taking pictures inside here, but at least I had my flash turned off... the kids weren't interested in this part very much, so we hurried through without really getting to figure out who this soldier was.


Chloë did take an interest in this weaving loom, which she thought was enormous. I told her they come much bigger than that!


Outside, we visited the tents where the soldiers camped, learning that in each small tent, 5-6 privates would sleep practically on top of each other. Eesh! I would not have enjoyed that. I need to spread out! This was a kind of "MWR" tent, and the kids are playing the "Close the Box" game here.


A Patriot re-enactor shows the kids how to play "Solitaire," as this other game is sometimes called. He explained that the nails were each hand-made, not molded, and informed the kids that you can find this game at restaurants sometimes. Yup, of course.


The Patriot then explained how the fife and drums were used in the war camps to give commands, sort of in "code," over the noise of the gunfire and other commotion. He explained all about his uniform, too, and told us that everything the soldiers had, they were responsible for and owned. This wasn't a problem for the wealthy officers, but he was an enlisted man, and this would sometimes create a hardship. Yeah, I can relate...


Sophia modeling a tricorner hat, in the more spacious and comfortable junior officers' quarters


Inside the captain's tent, the kids looked at the charts and maps and explored the other artifacts there.


They were fascinated by all the tools in the surgeon's tent. I explained how, sometimes, a soldier would have to "bite the bullet," literally, while an embedded bullet was yanked out of an arm or leg. Much cringing followed that story.


Before we left Yorktown, we saw this female re-enactor holding a gun. The children asked why, so I presumed that the women and kids who were left behind while the menfolk fought the British had to be armed to defend themselves, as well.


After that, we dodged raindrops as we headed back to the van. The kids ate their sandwiches in the car during the half-hour drive through the deluge, back to Jamestown, for their scheduled classes. Here, they're showing off their wristbands from each location. (I had to wear them, too, and I still had mine on when I went to my therapy session that evening. My therapist was all concerned I'd been to the hospital.)


I sat in on Sophia's class, sending Jack and Chloë off to theirs next door, so I don't really know what went on in theirs. In our class, there was more learning about what it was like to be a Powhatan. I forget the instructor's name, but she was pretty great, too. 


I must've messed with the settings of my camera and not realized it, because most of my pictures didn't turn out. Bummer. Here, Teach is showing the kids how the Powhatan women could garden with a "hoe" made out of a wooden handle with the shoulder of a deer for the bottom.


Here, she's telling kids about the Indians' three main food crops: corn, squash and... a third thing I'm completely forgetting.


And here is an axe, made out of wood and rock, carefully hewn to be sharp.


After her presentation, the kids were allowed to try certain things she had demonstrated. Sophia is pounding deer sinew with a rock, which they used for strong string with various purposes.


Here, trying to start a fire with a bow and cord. Thankfully, no one was successful!


Wearing a bobcat fur around her neck, Sophia is dressed as a Powhatan boy.


Sophia modeling a necklace that the Powhatan girls might have traded food to the English settlers for, with little bells for jingling music


Exploring the Indian corn


Showing me pieces of antler and bone, used for tools


Sophia's class finished earlier, so we went next door to finish watching the older kids' class. When we walked in, Chloë was up front with her instructor, demonstrating something I missed as we were finding our seats. None of the pictures of the rest of their class - or Jack and Chlo - turned out, but I did get this one of Sophia wearing some armor the Jamestown settlers might have worn.


Afterward, we had to go to the gift shop to turn in our evaluations and get tickets for a drawing, and we found a penny press. It made four pennies, but I only had enough for two. I missed four back at Yorktown, too. Oh well, yet another reason to need to go back next time, in addition to all the great stuff we missed!


Chloë using all her might to crank out a penny

In all, I found it was a wonderful educational experience for the kids. I think they got a lot out of it, and I know I did. We'll definitely do it again next time, and explore the areas we didn't get to see. There's plenty left!


Saturday 9: I Put A Spell On You


Link here to play along. Just do it. I'm not in the mood to argue with you.

1. If you could put a spell on someone, who would it be and why?

Hmm. I really need to think about this. I mean, you don't just go fantasy-putting spells on people willy-nilly. I think it would have to be TBFH aka "evil ex-stepmother" lady, to get her to say the words, "I'm sorry I was such a shitty person to you." Or something like that. Only the first two words are imperative; she can paraphrase the rest. But knowing her, even with the spell, she'd probably morph that into, "I'm sorry you're such a shitty person," or something like that. Maybe I should pick someone else. Too late. I'm done thinking about this damn question. Next!

2. If you could go back in time and relive one moment, what would it be?

Pick a moment between March 18-21, 2003, when I didn't get up out of my Labor & Delivery ICU hospital bed and say, "Something the fuck is wrong with my babies, now give me a fucking ultrasound right the fuck now!" I would go back and do that, instead of just impatiently waiting, fretting, and repeatedly asking for one. I would get the fuck UP and WALK DOWN THE HALL and demand... ah damn it. It's too late now.

3.If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?

Oh. I thought that's what I was just answering. So read the last answer for this question, and for #2 read this: The time I met my husband-to-be at the bus depot in downtown St. Pete, ran hand-in-hand, laughing and smiling, to the courthouse, arriving breathlessly just before it closed, and got married before a Jay-o-pee. The running part was almost as awesome as the actual "I do" thing.

4. What movie/TV character do you most resemble in personality?

Monica from Friends. In so many ways.

5. If you could push one person off a cliff and get away with it, who would it be?

 See #1. That bitch.

6. Name one habit you want to change in yourself.

Right now I'm thinking I swear more than I need to.

7. Describe yourself in one word.


8. List your top three memes that you like to respond to.

This one. Aloha Friday. And Sunday Stealing.

9. Why do you blog?

To sell Jafra. I mean, to say whatever the hell I want, however the hell I want, whenever the hell I want, without giving a good gosh-darn who reads it. Because sometimes, I really don't. I mean, I care about the ones who DO read it and are nice, but not the mean and nasties. They can go off that cliff, too.



Then I Saw Her Face, Now I'm A Believer



Here's the scoop: This post is about Jafra, so if you don't want to hear anything about it, go 'head and skip this post, m'kay?


I started with Jafra at the tender age of 22, in March of 1999. (Before that, one of my BFFs and her mom were trying to get me to join them in Mary Kay, which I bought from them frequently, as much as I was able, until I finally agreed to sit down and try some Jafra products with my then-boss. I signed up that very night.) I was an active seller for a while, and then I got married, got pregnant, and fell into motherhood in September of 2001. For the past ten years, my family and I have been using Jafra products - at first exclusively, as when I had been actively selling it, and then less and less so as budget constraints dictated. But I love it, have always loved it since the beginning, and was a little broken-hearted when I inadvertently went inactive (ie, got 'dropped') at the end of this past August.

Skipping over some major drama with a local gal I almost teamed up with, I signed back up under my old manager down in Florida a week ago. I've decided that, after all this time, I want to use this opportunity to help support my family financially. I'm putting the baking business on the back burner for the time being, and Etsy/the craft business in general is completely unreliable as a source of income, so there's Jafra. But more importantly than that, I actually love the products, the company itself is fantastic, and I've missed using it exclusively.

And when I say "I use Jafra," I mean, I really use Jafra:

  • I use every applicable skin care product on my face and body, which sometimes changes as I have aged and as the company updates available products (always for the better!)
  • Rob, my husband, used it extensively in the beginning of our marriage, and he looked like a sweet, young kid. He's stopped using it - hasn't touched it in I don't know how long - and, look, as much as I love the guy, he looks every bit of his 39 years. Maybe more, depending on how rough his day has been. I'm eager to get him the new men's skin care set and document the changes in his skin!
  • When all three of the kids were babies, I used the Tender Moments line on them. I bathed them with it, massaged them regularly, and sniffed their darling Jafra-scented selves at every available opportunity. (We used the original scent; the Lavendar & Chamomile wasn't available then, but I'd probably still choose it.)
  • When they became toddlers, I moved to the 1-2-4 toddler line, until I had Sophia. She dumped out all the bottles, wasting my precious product, and I vowed not to let her do that again. Well, she's probably done it 100 more times with my stuff, because that's Sophia. And a little piece of me dies every time. I jest...mostly.
  • Of course, the mainstay, the foundation, the pièce de résistance of Jafra is the Royal Jelly collection, which has been around for the entire 55 years of the company's existence. There is no substitute for Royal Jelly. Hands-down, it's the première product line in the skin care industry, IMHO, and Jafra's got it. I just got my new case last night in the mail, and of course a bottle of Royal Jelly Milk Balm was included, so that I might try it and get everyone in the Commonwealth of Virginia to try it, too. (Of course, I used it for years, and yes, it makes your skin feel spectacular.) It retails for $70. It's worth every bit of that. If you'd like to get it for free, ask me how. ;)
  • I have to confess, though, that the RJ Body Complex has long been my favorite Jafra product. At $60, it's also not cheap, but it lasts forever and, oh, my gosh, is it heavenly. If you have rough knees and elbows, they'll be gone. If you just like having the softest skin imaginable, then believe me, y'all, it's worth it. And yes, of course, you can get it for free, too. Unlike the old cases when I first signed up, my new case did not include a mini-version of the RJBC. Hello, disappointment! So that will be amongst the first things I order, too, because ah needs it.
  • As far as actual make-up? You name it, Jafra has it - and I've got it, too. I have a crapload of Jafra cosmetics, from eye color to foundations to nails and everything in between. There have been the occasional products I haven't liked, like the old formula mascara and... hm. Other than the inkwell eyeliners, which I only had a problem with because I don't always have the steadiest of hands, that's all I can think of.
  • Royal Almond products have been around since the beginning, too, and they're among the top sellers with good reason. If you live near me, remind me to give you a hand treatment sometime. I give them to myself every week, if not more, and, well, my hands are freakin' soft. It feels amazing. The smell? It makes you want to eat it. (And you can, too, if you really must.) Almond isn't your thing? We can try Ginger or Rose, instead. I'm not a "floral" person, so I prefer the almond or ginger, but that's what's great about Jafra - you have choices, people!
  • My feet would be so gross without the Peppermint Foot Care goodies. I still have some product from a couple years ago. That's another great thing about Jafra products: they're so highly concentrated, they last for ages, which really makes them comparable to skin care companies that cost (and are worth) less, even though they are top-of-the-line, like your finer department store products.
  • Sun Care products: we use them, we love them, and since we live by the beach, we need them. I wouldn't be without them. Swear!
  • Our Spa Collection is to-die-for. Have I already used that phrase once in this post? I feel like I have, because to be totally truthful with you, that's how I really feel about Jafra products. Now, I'll be honest and say I haven't used them in a long while since we have kids, but Rob and I used to use them together when we first got married. Let's just say... that may be a factor in why we had four kids in 3½ years! (And nothing smells better than the Ginger and Sea Salt Body Rub. I can still memory-smell it now, after all this time. Mmm. So good.)
  • I'm not really big on wearing fragrances, especially in the summertime, but when it cools down, I start to spritz here and there, when I think of it. There's a raspberry-based one I like, but I can't even find it on my own site, so hopefully I can track it down. That's the one for me. As for Rob, he's not big on colognes either, but when he's in that mood, I tell him to put on some JF9, and it does the trick. I love it. It smells great. Period. As for the kids, they'll be getting some of these for Christmas this year for the first time, and I know they'll love that! (Although I have to admit, the name "Skid" for the boys' cologne has always cracked me up. Having an 8yo boy in the house, well, "skid" means something else to me...!)

I could go on and on about Jafra, but I think I already have, and I don't want you to get bored on me! Too late? I'm sorry. I just LOVE it all! The new products, the Jafra PRO line, use the most up-to-date skin care technology, and I can't wait to try them. They come with a price tag that makes me blink a little bit, but when I can get them, I'm going to take before-and-after pictures so I can prove (to myself) that they make the difference.

As for the pictures at the top of this post, they are my "before" (top left) any products at all - and like I said, I've only been using Jafra sporadically lately, which means one or two things and not even every day - and "after" using the Balancing Face Wash, Gentle Exfoliating Scrub, Toner, Royal Jelly Milk Balm, Optimeyes eye treatment, and the new Ultra Nourishing Gold Moisturizer, along with Jafra-only make-up. (Dudes, did you know that in Hollywood, they are putting this gold stuff on their face to the tune of $300-500? Ours costs just $55 for the same thing, which just happens to be the cost of the September case, if you were thinking about joining me on this venture. Meaning, I paid for that and got everything else basically for free! So think about it...) Anyway, I love how it feels on my face, and I'm going to use it day and night, like it says, to get the full effect.

Top Right: my own self-portrait, using my iPhone; Bottom pictures: Rob's iPhone photos of me with my glasses on and off. I'll post pictures again in a fortnight, so we can see if there are any changes after using Jafra products exclusively.

So that's about it from me for now, about Jafra. I want you to try this stuff. More importantly, of course, I want you to (a) buy this stuff (from ME, der), (b) host/ess a party to try it with your friends, and/or (c) join my team. Can you get rich from selling Jafra? Abso-freaking-lutely. (I know some who have, personally.) Do I want to get rich from Jafra? You better believe I do. If, when Rob retires in a year and a half, I've gotten to the point where he can go to school full-time and not have to work, I'll be as happy as a pig in you-know-what!!

So, wish me luck. Here I go.


Hellmann's Chicken Challenge

Disclosure: I was entered for a chance to win a Hellmann's® prize package in exchange for this post.  No monetary exchange took place. All opinions are my own.

For so many moms, back-to-school season means back to the same old dinner routines. We have a handful of go-to recipes and we rely on them to carry us through, week-in and week-out. Well, things are about to change... Hellmann's® is on a mission to help break you out of your dinner menu monotony!

hellmanns parm crusted chicken 

To help you spice-up your dinner routine, Hellmann's® and Best Foods® mayonnaise are launching the first-ever Chicken Challenge, a series of head-to-head chicken dish challenges that will help moms diversify their weekly recipe repertoire. Each week on, two chicken dish "challenger" recipes from Chipotle Lime Crusted Chicken to Baked Buffalo Chicken will go up against one of the most popular recipes on*, Parmesan Crusted Chicken. Try one of the featured Hellmann's® chicken recipes each week and cast your vote for your favorite.


On, you can also enter into a weekly sweepstakes for a chance to win one of four $250 grocery gift cards.** And if Hellmann's® receives more than 10,000 entries, the value of the grocery gift cards will double to $500!**


Hellmann's®* transforms chicken into a juicier, crispier, more delicious meal.*** With so many delicious recipes to try out at, you're sure to find dishes the whole family will love.


Good luck!




*Or Best Foods® depending on geographical location of media market.


**No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Promotion ends December 5, 2011. See for rules.


***Versus plain baked chicken

Friday Fragments


Link up here with Mrs.4444 if you're feeling fragmented today!

Happy Autumn! Good-bye, 100º days with NO air conditioning, hello, well, 65º days so far... Much more tolerable. Better get the HVAC fixed soon, though, or we'll (I'll) be miserable come Winter!

Check out my Aloha Friday question on the previous post for a special offer! I'm running a Jafra promotion for my blog readers only and it ends in one week, so hurry!

Wednesdays are homeschool co-op days for Team Odette, and while the kids are in their classes, I'm in the kitchen all day teaching cooking to children from age five to 14. Last week was the first week and quite chaotic (but fun); yesterday went much more smoothly and was a blast. Still, it wears me out. I had more errands to run and finally crashed before midnight, and I slept late late late today. We were supposed to spend the day up in Yorktown for their homeschool days events, for which we had tickets, but I was just too pooped. I think we'll have to think about taking Thursdays off from doing school, because last week was the same. Can always make it up Sat & Sun, though technically, we "do school" ALL the time, if you count the lessons the kids learn on-the-go, in the car, at the store, and so forth. Yeah. Let's count that.

Tomorrow, we WILL be going up to Jamestown for the kids' classes, since Jamestown/Yorktown Homeschool days end this weekend and I want to get our money's worth, but since we already went to J-town last week, we might either go early or stay late (or both, what the hey) and venture over to Yorktown. We've never seen Y-town, and it's unlimited free admission during this event, so I'd like to go check it out. Have y'all ever been to the "Historic Triangle," as they call it (Colonial Williamsburg is included in that)?

Saturday is free museum day! Learn about that here and get your two free tickets if you haven't already! We plan on going to the Children's Museum of VA in Portsmouth until Jack has to go home and get ready for his Cub Scout popcorn show & sell (a booth sale, as we Girl Scouts call it), and then a friend's having a birthday party for her husband after that, so... another busy weekend!

Oh yeah, and the Girl Scout Fall Product sale (candy and nuts) starts on Saturday, too. Phew, it never stops. My dad always complains that our life is too chaotic and hectic. I guess he can't seem to remember what life was like with four teenaged girls going in all different directions all the time?

If you want to read about my trip with Chloë to D.C. for her 10th birthday celebration, read the two posts prior to my Aloha Friday one. We had a grand weekend at American Girl, taking the train, going to the National Zoo, and staying in a hotel in the middle of the District. And I left her alone for her very first time while I slipped out and did a mystery shop at a restaurant and bar with a friend who lives there. Chloë did great, except she was upset that she couldn't get the laptop OR the TV to work, so she ended up taking a bath to calm down and missed my check-in phone call. By the time I got back, after watching the Mayweather-Ortiz fight at the restaurant, she and her AG doll, Faith, were sound asleep in their bed. (Speaking of the fight, did you see that? I kept cringing while the men cheered; it's the mother in me, I guess!)

I'm back in therapy at least twice a week now, and it's helping considerably. I adore my therapist and think it's the best-working relationship I've ever had with one (and I've had a bunch).  My psychopharmacologist, "Paypal," has changed up one of my meds, from Side-Effexor to Pristiq, and it's not going so well... plus he was out of town and unable to take any of my "what should I do?!?!" phone calls. Luckily, my therapist was there and able to help me cope. I ♥ her.

So, my 8yo son, Jack, had his latest appointment with the new pediatric endocrinologist this week, and that went as expected, with the medication refill put in and new needles ordered. However, apparently we're supposed to be physically seen in the office every 4-6 months - as opposed to the 12 we've been asked in the past - and he's supposed to get an IGF-1 test every other visit or so. Now, like you I'm guessing, I'd never heard of this test, so someone has been dropping the ball. At least this new endo is on top of things. Basically it tells us whether his med dosage is correct, according to liver function after taking some marker meds. I love finding this kind of thing out after, what? Five, six years of being following for his growth hormone deficiency? Nice. (In the "good news" category, though, he's grown 8½ cm since Feb. 2010, which is fantastic! It would be 0 cm without the meds, more than likely.)

Chloë, at age 10 and smaller than her 6yo sister Sophia, weighs less than 50 lbs and has barely grown herself, so at the end of the endo visit, I asked the doc if she should be re-evaluated. She'd been checked a few years ago and was "borderline" for the condition, but I remained concerned. He took a height check on her and then pored over her medical records. Doc called me himself within the same day and told me that, yes, she definitely needs to be seen again and will probably end up taking the shots herself. I broke the news to her a little while later, and she was fairly calm about it, saying she kind of knew that was coming. She just doesn't want her shots "in the butt" and asked if she could have them in her arms and legs instead. I don't know, but since she's not very meaty in those places, I'm guessing that'll be a "no."

{Note to Grandma: her appointment is October 18th at zero-dark-hundred.}

Since we're talking medical stuff now, I visited my PCM myself this week to ask for referrals for both a new sleep study (do I still need the CPAP, which I don't use anyway, for apnea since I've lost 205 lbs??) and for the breast cancer gene test. Normally, they don't approve the gene test unless there is a "strong family history," which to Tricare means a mother or sister with the disease. Well, my maternal grandmother had it both in her 30s and 50s, and my mother died too young, at age 33, to know whether she would have gotten it. Since Sis and I have both had lumps checked out, I was able to talk my way into getting the referral submitted. I found out tonight that I've been referred out for an oncologist-geneticist appointment. Woot! (Meanwhile, the sleep study referral is still "under review," which I think is ridick. Whatevs.)


At Jack's Cub Scout pack meeting tonight, he earned belt loops for Gymnastics, BB-gun shooting, and Archery, along with his first Popcorn patch for this current sale, and his Wolf badge, which he somehow didn't get last year. (He's a Bear now.) We don't know what those arrow point-thingies are for, though. Grandma, help?

Ehh, I guess that's way more crap than you really wanted to know about me/us this week, so I'll shut up now. I really need to go do some cleaning, since we're having house guests (a friend and her three doggies) all next week. With four cats, this should prove interesting!


Aloha Friday: Shameless Promotion


Link up with Kailani here on An Island Life if you're asking questions this Friday!

My question for you this week is:

Have you ever heard of Jafra?

Yes, no, maybe so? Well, my website is here if you'd like to check it out. I have recently signed back up after 12½ years of being a consultant, dropping out after 10 years of being a mommy and not actively selling the product, and then changing my mind about leaving behind the most incredible opportunity out there. We are a top-of-the-line skin care and cosmetics company with state-of-the-art technology. All of our products are dermatology, allergy, clinically, and irritancy tested. We literally have something for everyone out there - and NO, it's not "just make-up" - though we do have plenty of wonderful color products as well.

And right now, if you place an order through my website before next week's Aloha Friday question goes up, I'm going to give you a 20% discount off your entire order! Just leave me a note that you came from this blog in order for me to recalculate your total. We have a 100% money-back satisfaction guarantee, so there is absolutely no risk if you end up not liking something.  Try it; you'll love it!

I'll be around to visit y'all, too! Have a great weekend!


It's Like A Zoo Up In Here


Day Two of our trip to Washington. We woke up - well, I should say, Chloë woke up, packed up as much as she could, and then woke me up to shower and finish getting our stuff together, because she's just that grown now - and checked out of the hotel. We left our American Girl stuff and suitcase at their baggage check so we wouldn't have to lug it all over D.C. and headed two doors down to Burger King to fill my girl's little belly. She was impressed by the three-story BK, this "car" table, and other little interesting things about the place, so she lingered while I put my head down and practically fell asleep there. I was so tired!


We only had a few stops down on the red line to get to our destination: the National Zoo, where we'd been once before when Sophia was about halfway grown in my belly, so she had no recollection of the trip. This was on the very long escalator, which she didn't like very much. She didn't fuss as much as Jack would have, though - they freak him OUT!


As soon as we neared the top, the melodic notes from this wooden flautist filled the air. He was using some kind of recorded background music as well, and the combination was delightful. I like a good busker, so we stayed a minute for a listen.


Chloë enjoyed the music, too, so I let her put a dollar in the tips box. Little things like that thrill her.


She thought these flowers were beautiful and asked to have her photo taken in front of them. The poor dear is forever asking what kind of flower this or that is, and unless it's an extremely well-known thing like a rose or a daffodil or what-not, I'm afraid I don't have the foggiest clue.


When she commented, "Hey, I've never seen a mailbox like that before," I made her stand by it so I'd remember to tell you exactly that bit. Seriously? I guess they aren't a common sight 'round here.


We spotted a 7-Eleven on our walk to the Zoo, and so of course I had to go in for a pick-me-up Diet Coke. I had to get a new cup, because my li'l girl had left my giant X-Treme Gulp cup (I call it my quarter-keg) on the train the day before. I let her get a Slurpee as a treat. The kids are always asking for Slurpees, and I'm always saying "no." But we were on a bit of a treat weekend, so what the hey?

I asked the cashier how close to the zoo we were by that point, and he pointed out the window, across the street. "It's right there," he said, with slight exasperation. "Oh," I replied sheepishly. "So it is." So we crossed the street, where I couldn't get a suddenly very shy Curls to ask the nice police officer - who desperately wanted to talk to her - whether our drinks were allowed in the Zoo. I finally asked the question while she peeked out from behind me bashfully, and found they were all right, so in we went.


If you've been to the Smithsonian Zoo there, in DC, then you know there are all kinds of educational looky-loo things like this one for kids and adults alike. Chloë stopped and peered into each one she could find, soaking up facts about the animals we were about to see and dropping knowledge on me during the actual viewing.


They were pretty cool, like giant View-Masters®. I enjoyed a few myself.


The Clouded Leopard was napping far away in a perch, so it was hard for me to get a good picture of him. Chloë kept telling me little factoids from the View-Master® about them.


You can see me taking the picture better than you can the two Fishing Cats napping just behind the glass, but there they were. One opened his eyes in his upside-down head and blinked sleepily at us, reminding us both of our own fat cat, Tinkerbell.


Chloë stopped to look at all the hands-on and interactive educational posts in the park that we passed, and I liked that about her. She didn't want to just go in and be a casual observer. She was an active participant, and I, well, I was observing her.


We didn't actually get to spot any of the Asian Small-Clawed Otters in the tank, but she's still talking about how soft the fur was in this touchy-feely doohickey. And when you pulled on the tab on the same otter, it made the noise. She's still mimicking that, too.


There was no shortage of bumblebees in the flowers we passed that day in the park.


Soon, we were on a bridge overlooking the Asian elephants, and the one on the right was putting on a show. She kept scooping up dirt with her agile trunk and tossing it onto her back, presumably to keep cool or keep the flies off or something, and then she would pull out hunks of grass and feed them into her gaping maw. The second or third time she did that, her enormous tongue came licking out of her mouth, and I'm sorry I wasn't able to get a picture of that. It was impressively large! As were the coconut-sized piles of dung, as Chloë pointed out, giggling.


There were some wee birds flitting about right next to us, so Curls stopped to watch them for a few moments.


Off they went... out of sight.


Moving along, we came to the Red Panda exhibit. We stayed here a very long time. Chloë was enthralled with these two. This one spent the entire time napping in the perch, while his partner wandered around in the habitat, entertaining us.


Chloë "awwed" over him the whole time we were there, seemingly louder as he came closer to our position.


Chloë laughed uproariously when the red panda stopped to hump up and down, shaking its rear at us. I couldn't tell if it was going to the bathroom or what, because it didn't seem like much, if anything, was left behind there when it moved along, so I'm not sure what that was about!


Finally, the Ailurid climbed the branches with fantastic agility and perched its adorable head on its front paws and sat there for a time, watching us watching it. We stayed a few moments longer and then kept going, but the red panda had stolen Chloë's heart.


The little girl by my side requested that I take a picture of these flowers and ask you (Miss Erin? Grandma?) what they were. So, what are they?


I'm afraid this is the best view we got of Tian Tian, one of the Giant Pandas on display. This was way zoomed and cropped, too, as the habitat was huge and the panda stayed in a far corner with its back to us. For that reason, we didn't stay and observe for long.


You might remember we are avid Penny Press collectors, so we pressed 6 or 7 pennies during our visit to the Zoo, every chance we got. Chloë was glad to just be able to watch the automated machinery for once, instead of having to crank it herself. This is the panda penny.


Oh, look! There's Mei Xiang!


Just past the panda exhibit, there was an all-you-can-panda gift shop, so we stopped in and had a look around. We found this HEE-larious pooping panda keychain, which squeezed out more doo-doo when you squeezed the panda's belly.


At $4, we decided it wasn't in our price range, but that didn't stop us from squeezing-and-pooping for a good three or four minutes, laughing and laughing and making the shop clerks laugh, in turn, at us and our amusement. I mean, c'mon! How funny is this thing?!

We picked up some souvenirs for each of us at this shop: a small stuffed red panda for Chloë, and a matching stuffed giant panda for Sophia, which we named Beijing and Shanghai, respectively, for their home country. Jack was to receive a Zoo-themed truck, which matched his growing collection of otherwise-identical trucks from NYC, Kings Dominion theme park, and... Busch Gardens, maybe? A t-shirt for Rob, a shot glass for my collection, and a postcard for Erin, who collects, and we were on our way. No plastic bag, thank you, we'll just tuck them into our backpack, here. Except for Beijing, which was Curls' constant companion for the remainder of the day.

A note about Beijing: since she came from D.C., just like Faith Misty, her new American Girl doll, Chloë decided that this would be Faith's pet, since we weren't able to get Ginger the cat for her. I liked that idea, too, and I liked that Chloë came up with it and was satisfied by it.


Doing the elephant penny press outside, inexplicably, the panda shop


And here was one for the tigers, which was nowhere near the actual tiger exhibit. We never got a chance to see those, on this visit. See Beijing tucked into her pocket?


We were getting short on time by then, so we made the decision that our last stop of the day would be to the Great Ape house. This Western Lowland Gorilla was a shy girl, peeking out at us occasionally from the corner, but mostly hiding away.


Another lowland gorilla was less shy and, in fact, startled the whole crowd watching by slamming herself into the window at us, perhaps in a display of agression? I'm not sure, but everyone jumped about a foot back when she did that! I found this highly entertaining.


In the orangutan habitat, Chloë was amused to find one playful critter and one covered up in a sheet, eating a banana. It rolled around in the sheet, and never let it drop. She decided that was funny enough to keep reminding me about it all the way home.


It stunk to high heaven in the Great Ape house. The smell of primate poop was... whew! Just thick in the air. So when we found the two penny machines at the end of the building, I was dismayed to discover that I was out of quarters by that point. We couldn't not get the pennies, so that meant we had to go out and change some dollars into quarters and then go back into that awful stench.

When we went outside, we discovered at last where all the vendors were for the Fiesta Musical, a celebration for Hispanic Heritage Month that was going on at the Zoo that day. I approached the first one and asked for change for a dollar and was denied. Huh! Like he didn't have quarters. C'mon. I supposed I had to buy something to earn that privilege. Well, I had one quarter, and a very darling young lady came up to me and handed me 50¢, saying she didn't need it. She wouldn't accept a dollar or even dimes in return. I was touched, as I always am by people practicing random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty...

Back into the Stench Great Ape House we went, to press our pennies. Luckily, the other machine accepted dollar bills.

002 (2)

So this was our collection of pressed pennies for the day, to go into collection book #2. It's almost filled; we'll need to get a third soon. Look at that blank! It came out, along with our penny, from one of the presses. I've decided it's my favorite.


I noticed this tree growing outside the Great Ape house. Is that an actual bunch of bananas? In D.C.? I've never seen such a thing, in real life. It fascinated me to find it there.


Soon, it was time to rush-rush-rush back to the hotel where we'd stayed. We had less than two hours to huff down to the Metro station, zip over to the stop by the hotel, huff down to the hotel, (pee), collect our bags, and get back on the Metro to Union Station, where we would catch the Amtrak back for home. While we waited for the elevator to take us down to the trains at the zoo stop, I photoed this awesomely painted bear. Cool, right?


Anyway, thankfully, we did make our train, with a mere 20 minutes to spare. Whew!! I was a little panicky. Chloë was a trooper, rushing along beside me and dragging the rolling suitcase while I carried everything else. Oh. After we picked up our bags and got back to the Metro station by the hotel, I put in her fare card and let her through the turnstile. Then I put in my fare card and got denied! Eek! Mine was out of money; I hadn't used them evenly, apparently. I had to leave her there and race back to the fare card vending machine, where I couldn't see her, to buy a new ticket. And the first machine was out of order, the second rejected my $10 bill and my credit card, and I had to go to a third one. I kept hollering out, "Are you okay, Chloë?" and heaving a sigh of relief when she would answer back in the affirmative. She wasn't scared, but I didn't enjoy that experience one little bit.


At last, we were seated back on the train to go home, Faith Misty in her box by our feet, luggage overhead, Curls by the window with Beijing to keep her company, and me drooling on my pillow-coat for two-thirds of the trip. I was tired. TIE-YURD.


After another four-plus hours, we had a sweet, happy family reunion at the depot in Newport News, and the kids fast-chatted all the way home about what they'd done in each others' absences, while Rob and I tried to get words in edgewise. Once at home, I gave Jacky his truck and Sophia her panda, Shanghai.


Rob was game to model his t-shirt for me. He's a sport, that one.


For the Fiesta Musical, I picked up these souvenir birds from Peru that, when filled with water, make real-sounding bird calls that vary with the shape of the ceramic creatures. They are LOUD, too. I like them, but the kids blew them half of today, and I sho'nuff did get a headache from that! Sophia's, sadly, is already broken, but it was an accident, and she was sad. Me, too.

The kids stayed up late last night, looking at Faith Misty and hearing all about our trip, despite our best efforts to get them to settle down and go to sleep. I expected nothing less, though.

And that was our trip. Big fun!


She's An American Girl

This past weekend, for her tenth (!!) birthday celebration, Chloë I took the train up to Washington, D.C., to have some fun at the new(ish) American Girl store there. She didn't have an American Girl doll before, so the whole point was to pick one out and, for me, to enhance the experience for her in whatever way I could.

I'll post about the two days in two separate posts, because both promise to be quite lengthy - and you know me, I simply cannot make a long story short!


Here's Chloë on the train, shortly after we boarded in Newport News around 0800. My reasons for doing the train instead of driving were three-fold: (1) To save money on gas and parking to and in DC, (2) to leave the van so Rob and the kids could get around in our absence, and (3) for the fun of it! I love riding the train. Chloë has ridden the DC Metro and the NYC Subway system before, but this, I believe, was her first "real" train experience. She loved it, although halfway or so into the four-plus-hour sojourn, she was quite bored, as she'd forgotten her current book (which she's already read at least twice, and which makes her cry every time because it reminds her of losing Robby, sweet thing). (At least I had my iPhone! So she played on that while I snoozed a little.)


The Instagram pic I posted of her to Facebook - love that app!


Finally, we arrived at Union Station in DC, almost an hour later than expected. I had planned to go right to our hotel, check in and drop off our luggage before heading to the American Girl store in McLean, VA, but we had lunch reservations that we were going to miss if we didn't go straight there. So here's Miss Curls waiting for the first Metro train of the day, once we figured out where in the h-e-double hockey sticks we were supposed to be!

{By the by, if her face looks a little 'odd' to you, it is. The left side (right for you; the one with the scratch on her cheek) is swollen, thanks to a booboo from her dental appliance. Fortunately, she has an appointment on the books tomorrow anyway, so we can get that looked at.}


And again, the obligatory Instagram "check-in" Facebook photo


Here she is, as her Grandma said, looking "10 going on 14" as we waited for subway train #2 in our trek to the mall. After that, we took the bus. With all our luggage and stuff. Oy.


Finally, we made it to the mall!! She was so excited, and I was, too, for her. She made me photograph this first sign we spotted inside the mall, indicating our destination...


...and this banner, too. Excitement was mounting with every step closer to the store.


Finally, we arrived where she's been waiting years to go: the American Girl store. And folks, let me tell you what: this place is an absolute EXPLOSION of pink. Pink, pink, pink. Pink everywhere. (Read: Don't take your total tomboy daughters to this place. It wouldn't do.)

Now, by then, I was a little frustrated and upset (for her sake), because I'd spent over a month trying to get in contact with their personal shopper for an appointment for Chloë, and also because we missed our lunch reservations by about 45 minutes thanks to public transit. So the first thing I did was look for a manager, explain the situation, and ask her for help in making the whole event a positive one for my baby. Who is no longer a baby, but so what? Ten. Sheesh.

The manager, Doris, was fantastic. She marched us right up to the Bistro, where we'd missed our reservations, and got us a table immediately. She left us there with instructions that we were to find her afterward, so that she could connect us with the Personal Shopper. She was going to take care of us. That much was clear. And I was so relieved.


Since she hadn't gotten her own American Girl (AG) doll yet, Chloë was able to pick out a "loaner" doll from a wall of them sitting near the front of the Bistro, along with a chair that clipped directly to the table next to her. She really enjoyed that. Silliness, but hey. We decided to call the loaner doll "Sarah."


She pored over the menu, in which we were each supposed to find a starter and an entrée, according to their pricing plan. Look at that cheek! Tsk, tsk.


She was going to have milk with her meal, and then I showed her the beverage menu that was available and said she could pick off that if she wanted. This is not a posed expression; she really did that. Hee!


Curls and the menu, of which she wanted a picture. Pink, pink, pink!


Even though "Sarah" was only a loaner, she was still giddy with excitement over eating with her. It was her first hands-on experience with AG dolls, and she kept pulling her out of the chair to explore her, and posing with her for more pictures. She was loving this and informed me multiple times that, "This is even better than I imagined it would be!" Win!


When our drinks were brought, Sarah got her own cup, too. Chlo thought that was so cute, of course.


The centerpiece - more pink!


Chloë insisted I come look at the bakery case while we waited for our food. She was beside herself about there being "mini" things for everything for the AG dolls, including each dessert!


Her starter plate consisted of fruit kebabs, berries, and muffins for dipping into strawberry yogurt. She stuffed herself on this, except for the muffins, which she took home with her.


I had the cheddar cheese fondue, which was better than I'd expected. (You say "fondue" and I'm there, pretty much.) I filled up on bread and cheese. The two of us could've just done the starters and been happy, but their menu doesn't work like that.


Lunch was spaghetti and meatballs, but she took two bites and decided she couldn't pack in another morsel. I felt her pain. She had this for dinner later, instead.


I had a turkey panini, which I tasted to discover it was really good, but I also couldn't eat another bite. I ate mine the next day, for lunch and for dinner on the train ride home.


Eventually, our excellent server, Emmanuel, and some of the other staff came out with her desserts and sang happy birthday to her, after announcing her name and age to the whole restaurant. I noticed some other guests singing, too. It was fun.


Of course, she loved that part!


And look what they brought her! FIVE desserts! She ate the top off the two cupcakes and brought the rest home for Jack and Sophia to enjoy.


One last, lovely pose with Sarah at the end of the meal


Chloë insisted on filling out the comment card herself, which tickled me enormously. How grown up is she? Goodness.


We looked around at the dolls with a culture and history background story for a little while, before deciding to go find the Personal Shopper who was going to assist her with her purchases. Here's a little photo op with Kanani, who is obviously the Hawaiian AG.


She enjoyed showing me the different beds and pets and things that could be had for her doll-to-be, though she knew we had a budget to stick to.


Here, she's found Ginger, the little kitten she eventually wants to get for a pet for her doll. Maybe for Christmas?


Finally, we went upstairs and found Lisa, the Personal Shopper, who took Chloë under her wing and gave her her undivided attention. She really made Chlo feel like she was the star of the show, and I could tell my girl was feeling pretty special. Just what I wanted out of this experience. They're looking here at the case full of all the look-alike dolls ("My AG"), which is what she wanted, rather than one that came pre-storied. Like that term? I think I may have just made it up.


She didn't find exactly what she wanted in that case, so Miss Lisa took her over to a nearby case with their more popular My AG dolls. She picked one out that she thought would be up Chloë's alley, and she was right! Chloë's eyes lit up as soon as she saw her, and we knew she had found The One. This is her. Well, this is her box. Pink, of course.


Miss Lisa took Chloë and her new doll over to the styling salon, to get her ears pierced. Here, Chloë's touching her doll for the first time. She was so excited! Then they whisked her doll into the back "for the procedure." I asked, "Why, do they bleed and cry?" to Lisa, who started to say "no..." and then cracked up laughing at herself for actually answering me seriously.


Here she is, pierced, and dressed in the outfit that all My AG girls wear home. Does she look like a happy camper, or what?!


Lisa helped Chloë pick out a special AG hairbrush for her new doll, as well as a gymnastics outfit for her, after determining what Chloë, herself, likes to do and what her favorite things are. Then she took us back upstairs to her office to ring her up. Here's Curls in front of Cécile and Marie-Grace, the new New Orleans girls.


Miss Lisa wrapped her packages up all specially, gave her a cookie for a treat, and posed for a picture (which she asked me to email her later). She was really great to Chloë and gave her the Star Treatment, making her feel really important for her special day. Mom was thrilled with the whole thing, too. It really worked out well.


I'd looked ahead of time and found that there was a Godiva shop in the same mall, so before heading to the hotel, we stopped in for my free rewards member truffle. I picked the hazelnut one, as usual, while Chloë wanted this strawberry créme one. She didn't like it, but she ate it and the second one I bought in case she did, too. *snort*


We lugged all our bags o' red out to the bus waiting zone and, um, waited. For the bus. And ate our truffles. I listened to Chloë chatter on and on about her experience at American Girl. She'd had the best time, really enjoyed it.


Shortly after, on the bus, well, she crashed. Hard. At least I didn't have to listen to her ask, "Can I take her out of the box now?" 47 times a minute like she had been up 'til that point!


Once we got to the train depot again, she was wide awake and raring to go. I think this is Photo Number 830 of Chloë at a Place o' Transportation from this trip. Ah, well. I don't care, she's cute in every damn one anyway.


She was a little punchy by that point, and giggly, too. I said something to her, or made a face or something - I forget - that made her laugh...


...and laugh...


...and laaaaaugh!! She got me laughing pretty hard, too. Yep. We were having a swell time.


At long last, after a couple of train transfers and lugging our bags up Connecticut Avenue, we landed at our hotel and checked in. And then we were in the room, and finally it was time to take her new special-special out of the box. Well, hello there, darlin'!


She's ready for her close-up.


Chloë Raine holding "Faith Misty" for the first time. I didn't assist with the name at all. Well, I tried to get her to go with "Faith Hope" and "Faith, Trust, and Pixie-Dust" for silliness, but I got the, "Moooo-oooom" look for those efforts. They make a pretty pair, don't they?


Obligatory Instagram photo for Facebook instantaneousness

So that was our day! She immediately changed Faith into her gymnastics outfit, changed her earrings, and back and forth about 3700 times before bed that night. And of course, they slept together, snuggled up tight.


My kiddos have had a busy first half of the day, and will have a busy evening, so I'm letting them loose outside right now to expend some pent-up energy. I think I'll be back soon with Day Two of our trip!


Sunday Stealing: 40Q Meme, Part II


Link up here if you played along with this one!

21) Have you ever flown a kite?

Yes, in the Outer Banks, in Kitty Hawk, NC. I think that was the only time. I loved it, and it was the perfect spot. My kite went up so high... I loved it!

22) Do you wish on your fallen lashes?

No... I forgot that was a "thing."

23) Do you consider yourself successful?

I don't know. The jury is still out on that one. If I raise three happy, productive adults, then I will say yes.

24) When's the last time you made an obscene phone call?

Gosh, I don't know. Not for a very long time. I'm old now, you know.

25) Have you ever asked for a pony?

Nah. Ponies aren't really my think. What I've always wanted - and asked for - was a Chihuahua puppy. One day...

26) Plans for tomorrow?

I have to take son to the endocrinologist first thing in the morning, then older daughter to the dentist, get an oil change and a tire filled with nitrogen... three mystery shops, kids to gymnastics, and son to his first Cub Scout meeting of the year. And somewhere in there, hopefully we'll do a bit of (home) schooling!

27) Can you juggle?

Not even a little.

28) Missing someone now?

Nope. I'm with my family after being gone with older daughter all weekend, and I'm happy to be where I am, with all of us back together now.

29) When was the last time you told someone "I love you"?

Within the last 5-10 minutes. (Younger daughter came downstairs to sleep on the couch, a habit of hers...)

30) And truly meant it?

Well, of course I meant it just now! I always do...

31) How often do you drink alcohol?

Maybe twice a month. Last night, I did, during the big boxing match. It doesn't take much, these days!

32) How are you feeling today?

Good! Except for a slight upset tummy, that is. I'm happy, content, fulfilled... I'm having a good moment right now.

33) Have you ever tried to write a meme?

Nah. I'd ask dumb stuff, I think.

34) Have you ever been fired from a job?

LOL Yes, I got fired from the ice cream parlor I worked at in St. Pete Beach, Florida, when they found out I got accepted to graduate school. What a reason!

35) What are you looking forward to?

Having just come back from a wonderful, whirlwind trip to DC with older daughter, I can honestly say I'm not looking "forward" to anything right at this moment. I'm still reveling in the fun that was.

36) Have you ever crawled through a window?

Yeah, when I've been locked out of the house. Bunches of times!

37) What's the most recent bad meal that you had to endure?

Last night was bad. I did a mystery shop, and we were soooo neglected. It was abyssmal. I didn't even eat any of the food, except for a bite or two.

38) Can you handle the truth?

It's all I want, so yes.

39) Who's to blame for what's going on?


40) What will it take to fix it all up?

How the hell should I know? Prayer. Clarity. Enlightenment. Thoughtfulness. Conscientiousness. Hope. And maybe we're talkin' 'bout a revolution?

Have a great week, y'all!


Saturday 9: Tuesday Afternoon


Link up here if you're playing along this fine Saturday!

1. Where will you be and doing this Tuesday afternoon?

I'll be doing three mystery shops, sitting in therapy for 45 minutes, and attending a Girl Scout team meeting.

2. Do you belong to any group(s)?

I belong to several. I'm a Girl Scout (troop leader, among other things), and I'm in a homeschooling co-op, for starters... or is that not what you meant?

3. Do you feel energized or drained by being in a group situation? (If the answer is "it depends," on what does it depend?)

Usually, energized, unless I'm just already exhausted. When I'm with people I know and am comfortable with, it tends to make me "on" and want to be goofy.

4. Is there a role you naturally put yourself while adapting when in group situations?

I'm the type that usually hangs back and checks things out while I'm figuring out my role in things, in person. Online, I'm more forthright.

5. In business or formal situations, do you mind hugs or are you offended if it goes past a handshake?

I'm pretty touchy-feely myself, so unless it's a creepy kind of thing, it wouldn't bother me in the slightest.

6. Do you find what we'd call “ice breakers” a playful way to build community in a lighthearted manner, or a complete and utter hell of forced fun and awkwardness?

It depends on if they're really good ones or not, but I tend to lean more toward the latter!

7. What word do you use far too frequently?

The "f-bomb," "like," "awesome," "whatever"... I'm so mature, eh?

8. What word do you use not frequently enough?


9. What word do you use when swearing is not appropriate?

Dang, heck, that sort of thing, unless I really need to swear, and then I'll go with "feck."

Enjoy your weekend, folks!


LIFE's "Insure Your Love" Picture Mosaic

Dear Readers,


As moms, we do everything we can to provide our children with a good life, filled with happiness and lots of opportunities. But when was the last time you stopped to think about how your family would manage without you? It's not a pleasant thought to ponder, but if your family depends on you, it's a topic you can't afford to ignore.


September is Life Insurance Awareness Month, making it the perfect time to think about protecting the most important people in our lives. The nonprofit LIFE Foundation sponsors Life Insurance Awareness Month in response to the growing problem of too many families not having adequate life insurance protection. According to the industry research group LIMRA, 11 million U.S. households with children under age 18 have no coverage.  Those families are just one illness or accident away from a financial crisis, and something needs to be done about it. That's why LIFE has created the "Insure Your Love Picture Mosaic" in support of Life Insurance Awareness Month.


The "Insure Your Love Picture Mosaic" is designed to recognize and celebrate those who have made the responsible decision to protect their loved ones by owning life insurance, while also introducing them to a larger community of others who have made the same choice. People are encouraged to upload up to 20 photos of their loved ones, whose financial future has been safeguarded by their decision to purchase life insurance.  


By adding your photos to the mosaic, you will also be helping out a great cause. For each photo uploaded, $1 will be donated to the LIFE Lessons Scholarship Program, which provides tuition assistance to students who have lost a parent and are struggling to achieve their dream of a college education. You can add your photo(s) here. For more information, go here.


So please, consider going and adding a photo or three of your own to the mosaic, to help with this worthy cause. It doesn't cost you a thing but your time, and it will help do a world of good for these students.


Please note: I received a gift card as part of a promotional program with the LIFE Foundation and MomSelect for this post.

Friday Fragments


Hie thee here to link up with Mrs.4444 if ye be fragmentin' today!

Look at me! Fragmenting two weeks in a row! I'm on a roll, kids. You should feel blessed to have me in your presence. I jest. But I'm working on being a more consistent blahgess, so "here my am!" as I once heard an exuberant two-year-old exclaim.

So I'm pretty sure that one of our two twin kittens - or maybe both of them - just went potty on my kids' books that were left layin' on the floor. I'm utterly NOT in the mood to go check it out, mainly because I don't want to clean it up for the umpteenth time. These two kitties, Cupcake and Muffin, are 6 months old and quickly running out of chances with me. Unfortunately, we tried the SPCA, but we were told they were unadoptable with this behavior and would immediately be euthanized, so our options are limited. Seriously, though, I have just enough OCD that I'm about to lose my shit over it. No pun intended.

I had a major manic episode last Friday, and it involved lots of visual hallucinations, suicidal ideation, and severe anxiety. I saw my psychopharmacologist, who basically put me to sleep for the next two days. I woke up feeling much better, but it was a freaky thing. My husband took emergency leave for both the kids' sake and mine. This bipolar disorder is for the birds. I'm not looking forward to living with this crap for the rest of  my life, but I suppose I don't have much of a choice. (Please don't leave me a comment saying I DO have a choice and leave me a bunch of religious mumbo-jumbo about it. So not in the mood to be hearing that. If you wouldn't say it to a diabetic or a cancer patient, then don't say it to me. Thanks.)

I'm back in therapy 2x a week, after a two-month hiatus on my shrink's part. I'm so glad to be back. She and I hit it off like peanut butter and Nutella, and she helps me tremendously. I feel so much better, so much relief, after talking to her. She asked me, do I want to stick to twice weekly sessions or go down to one? I chose to stick with the two, since, um, six was apparently out of the question. Heh.

We've been taking some time away from our regular studies in order to participate in the Colonial Homeschool Days at Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center in the Historic Triangle up by Williamsburg. We'll get to Williamsburg later in the semester for their homeschool day(s), but today, we're headed to the Mariner's Museum in Newport News for more fun and edumacation. I'm looking forward to it - except for the waking the kids up early part. They don't do so well with that, being night owls like their Mama. (Click on over here to answer my Aloha Friday question about Colonial stuff, please-and-thanks!)

And in the evening, I'm having a JAFRA party to celebrate my return to that oh-so-wondrous of skin care and cosmetics companies. It's truly an awesome company with fabulous products - and I would know, as I've been using them since I was a young lass of 22 years! (I just turned 35 a week ago, so that should tell you how much I believe in the benefits of both Jafra the company and Jafra the product!) If you've never tried it and would be interested in doing so, give me a hollah! Even if you're not local to me, we can work out a hostess plan for you to try some samples and get some free gifts. Your skin will thank you!  Here's my site, although it won't be active until sometime in the next couple of days - check me out (soon)!

Finalmente, the eldest girl-child, who just turned 10 (!!) and I will be heading up to D.C. this weekend via train. I'm taking her shopping for her first (and probably only) American Girl doll and some spa time, like getting the doll's ears pierced if that's what she decides (and I think she will). Now if I could just get their dang personal shopper to call me back, that would be glorious!

So our first day of co-op on Wednesday when really well, I think! It was hectic, and there was some chaos, and I was way exhausted afterward, but I'm looking forward to what the next 9 weeks will bring for both the kids in their classes and me in mine (I'm teaching cooking to kids from 5 to 14 in three different time slots). I'm so glad to be back in the group, after leaving prematurely last spring!

That's all I've got for fragments, but I may be back later with pictures from our Powhatan Indian Village tour in Jamestown, among other gems. Come back and see me if you get a chance. ☺


Aloha Friday


Link up here if you're playing along today!

My question(s) for you this week are:

Have you ever been to Colonial Williamsburg (VA)?

If so, what did you think of it? If not, do you want to go?

We've lived here 8½ years and are just now doing the Colonial thing. We're starting with Jamestown and Yorktown, actually, but we'll get to "Billburg" soon, later this year. I think the timing is just right now that our kids are older and will remember it, anyway. Any earlier and it would have been wasted on them, I think!

Have a great weekend! "Curls" and I are headed to American Girl in D.C. by train, so I'm excited - as is she!


September 11, 2001 - September 11, 2011: Our Story

Our 9/11 "where were you when ..." story goes this way (and it's long, just forewarning):

We were living in Panama City, Florida, at the time. I was eight months' pregnant with Chloë Raine, with an extreme case of polyhydramnios going on. So we were headed, on 9/7/01, to Pensacola for a 4D-level ultrasound to find out exactly what was happening there and make sure Baby Girl Odette was fine.

Along the way, I writhed in agony over each and every fine bump in the road as Rob drove the three hours to Sacred Heart Women's Hospital in P'cola. It got worse as the trip progressed, and by the time we got to the hospital for my test, I was half-crying, half-screaming in agony.

Fast-forwarding through the stress of not knowing where to go and being brought all over the hospital while the wheel of the wheelchair rubbed against and burnt my thigh, all the while with me hollering and moaning in severe pain, we finally ended up in the L&D ward for Maternal-Fetal Medicine patients. Basically, I was a high-risk pregnancy without being aware of it, for several reasons: My weight was high, we had the polyhdramnios, I had developed pre-eclampsia but NOT been told about it, and Chloë's triple-screen test had come back with a high risk indicator for Down Syndrome.

Anyway, we got to L&D, and by that point, my blood pressure was so high, and I was shaking badly. They were doing everything in their power to calm me down, and I overheard someone tell someone else (maybe I'm the "someone else," I can't even remember anymore) that I was on the verge of having a major stroke that could be deadly. So things were quite serious, you could say.

I had about 24 people, including the janitor I think, reach up into my cervix and push through to check on things. At one point, they decided to break my stubborn amniotic sac, and holy crap, that hurt. Not only that, but there was SO much extra fluid that the staff of this teaching hospital laughed as they had never seen such an amount come out, and it flooded the floor all around my bed. I remember everyone calling for "Towels! More towels!" It even splashed the feet of Rob, who was holding my hand and standing near my head.

When the rush of fluid poured out of me, it dragged Chloë's infant hand out with it, so that when they checked me again, they felt her hand instead of the tip of her head, as things should be. So now I had complicated presentation on top of everything else! With that, the severe pre-eclampsia, and the determination that my placenta had abrupted after one long, continuous contraction on the drive to the hospital, a decision was made that I needed to have her by emergency C-section. I was devastated, having had my birth plan written up for months, and it didn't include no damn surgery!

(An emergency c/s is pretty much a slice-and-dice operation, and the focus is obviously more on getting the baby out and keeping her and the mother safe and healthy, rather than on having a pretty scar. And I've had three emergency sections now, plus a hysterectomy, plus gastric bypass surgery. Not that you asked - but my abdomen is basically one big scar now. It looks awesome.)

So we readied me for surgery as fast as possible, and when Rob was let into the O.R., I was singing "Come Sail Away" to him for reasons I can't explain, other than that I was high on meds by that point and it was one of the songs he sang/played for me during our brief courtship, being a Sailor in the US Navy and all.

I have to admit, also, to being disappointed I was having my baby for my 25th birthday, because all I really wanted to do for my birthday was not give birth but go swimming! With the polyhydramnios, I was freaking e-NOR-mous, and the only time I was comfortable was when I was swimming in the base pool. I even asked the surgeons, during the surgery, if I could go swimming the next day. Their answer came in the form of chuckles and guffaws. I easily guessed that meant it was a big, fat "no." Dammit.

Anyway, moving along. The surgery progressed rapidly, and Rob looked over the hidey-sheet they put up so Mom can't see anything, and he saw lots and lots of blood all over the place. I think that will stick with him; not sure it traumatized him, but it definitely made an impact on him. When they pulled Chloë out of me, she dipped her head back and gulped in some of the fluid, which was not supposed to happen. Uh-oh. I'm unclear on whether that's what led to her subsequent breathing problems, but they had to put her on O2 for a while to get her to breathe normally. I can't remember the exact numbers, but her APGARs were low to medium. She was not a healthy baby.

They brought her over to me, and I had just enough chance to see how freaking cute she was - especially her tiny nose, I noticed - before I started to barf all over her. They whisked her away to get her clean and then took her down to the NICU, where she remained for ten days. Meanwhile, I was sewn up and brought out to recovery, where my blood pressure continued to be sky-high. I was one stressed-out and fearful Mama!

I'll skip over my own recovery mostly, but Chloë was in the NICU for a week and a half with one problem developing after another. At first, it was the breathing issue I mentioned. Then, she refused to eat. I tried nursing her, and she just didn't "get" it. I was pumping away, but my milk didn't come in for 10 days, so they insisted on giving her bottles of formula which, again, greatly upset me. When they gave her a pacifier, too, I flipped out on them, having done my reading and research on nipple confusion. Argh! I was adamant that she would be a breastfed baby, and this was especially aggravating to me. Anyway.

At another point, she developed fluid outside her lungs, and they were going to have to do surgery for that. Then that cleared up, miraculously and through the many prayers we had for her, by the next day. The following day, it was determined that she had a messed-up shunt in her heart, whereby the blood wasn't flowing properly through her body. They were going to do surgery on that, the next day. Can you imagine? Her parents were now 25 and 29, young enough to be terrified about her baby. At one point, I asked a nurse, "Is my baby going to die?!" and was relieved when the answer was no, she would be all right. But it was an extremely stressful time in our lives.

Meanwhile, four days into this huge, personal ordeal for our own family, September 11th came along. You all know what happened that day.

We did not, not at first. See, after it was determined we would be spending some time in Pensacola for Chloë's sake, Rob asked one of his colleagues to check into our house and look after our beloved dog and cat. Well, this particular guy, Z, was never able to get INTO our house, and so our pets had been locked in their cages with no food, water, or potties for four straight days! Upon finding this out, my blood pressure went through the roof again. I was certain they were dead. Freak out was my main response...

Then, Z told Rob to turn on the news and see what was happening. At that point, the North Tower of WTC had just been hit, so we all still didn't know what was going on. I was lying in my hospital bed, Rob next to me, and Baby Chloë down the hall in the NICU, when we watched the events unfold. I was transfixed. Utterly immobile. What the hell?! What was going on?

Then the phone calls started. Rob was in the Navy (still is), so everyone wanted to know what this would mean for him, as far as a deployment or what kind of duty, etc. He never did deploy and was put on security duty for several month after that, so thankfully I had him home with me while we were adjusting to life with a semi-sick little baby. (She still never wanted to eat at first, and then when she did come around and start nursing, she didn't want to stop! BUT, she had major reflux and would projectile vomit at least a dozen times a day, so she didn't gain any weight. We had to have weight checks done on her twice a week, and it was months and months before she regained her birth weight of 7 lbs and then hit the 10-lb mark...)

And finally, a couple days later, I found out that my boss from my law firm, where I'd worked until I got married, and who was like a second father to me, had dropped dead while watching the news of the attacks, on September 11th. I cried for days over that. I loved that man. He was wonderful to me. If Sophia had been a boy, her middle name would have been his...


That's our story for September 11, 2001. For this anniversary, ten years later, I will be remembering all of that (well, I just did, didn't I?) as well as our country pulling together. I will remember all of the commercials with people from around the U.S and, indeed, the globe, saying, "I am a New Yorker," and I will remember the feeling of shame I felt that everyone was so focused on NY and that the Pennsylvania crashed flight and the Pentagon flight were somewhat ignored and forgotten by the media, it seemed like.

But mostly, I will remember how, as the TV showed clips and ongoing coverage of the horrific attacks, our country banded together and showed unity for the first time in... maybe ever? And I will remember as well the fear of, "What kind of world have I brought my baby into?!" that I had for a long time.

We don't have television service, so I will not be watching coverage of that day, but I don't need to. You see, I really AM a New Yorker, and I spent a lot of time in that city throughout my childhood, and the World Trade Center towers were common sights for me then. And with their disappearance came shock and many other emotions too fragile for me to even name. We're all New Yorkers - no, we're all AMERICANS - on this day, and we will never forget.

God Bless you all and keep you safe, on this day, and always.



Friday Fragments

Link up with Mrs.4444 if you're fragmenting this week!

I haven't fragmented in ages, and my FF posts have been few and far between, so probably a lot of you have no idea who I am anymore. That's okay. I'm feeling particularly fragmented, mentally, so hey, let's get to it!

So I turned 35 yesterday, which, to me, was A. Big. Deal. Bigger than 30, and almost as big as 40. Hubs disagrees, but I see it as officially grown-up, officially an adult, officially "supposedly a responsible human being" and stuff. And, gulp, dare I say it - middle aged! What's your take on 35? Big deal or no?

All I asked for from my family was a clean house. That's all I ever ask for, for my birthday, Mother's Day, Christmas... any occasion in which I may possibly expect to receive something, you know? And I never get it. This, I suppose, is the life of a mother of three young children (and four cats, and a slob-by-nature husband), but still. Just once, maybe, it would be nice, eh?

One of my Daisy Girl Scout parents brought me a Diet Coke for my birthday, at our first meeting of the year yesterday. She knows I live for - and on - the stuff. I thought it was the sweetest gesture and was so touched!

My oldest kiddo turned TEN on Wednesday (yes, she was my 25th birthday present, but I was NOT happy about that. Why? Because I had wanted to go swimming on my birthday, dangit, and in the middle of my emergency c-section I asked my surgeons - there were about 5 of them in the room - if I still could. Much laughter ensued. I'm still bitter) and we had a huge blast doing all kinds of free stuff around town. Read all about it here. You know you wanna.

Oh, and answer my Aloha Friday question about your kids' birthdays while you're at it, wouldja? Prettiest please?

So, I took a poll about whether I should remove my nose ring when I'm doing stuff for my Jafra business (inquire within; website to be forthcoming in a week's time), and 75%, roughly, said it was unprofessional and I should take it out. Really? In 2011? I was surprised. Vote here if you want to have your say, and I will listen to the majority when the polls close on, say, Saturday night. 'Kay? Thanks.

Okay, enough linkage to my recent posts. Totally not where I meant to go with this. I don't even know where I did mean to go with this; I'm kind of just going with the flow of my fingers as they type. Do you ever do that when you blog? At least when you fragment?

I'm heading to my psychopharmacologist today for more happy pills. These visits excite me lately because, well, I'm severely bipolar AND I think more might be going on in the ol' bonkin-head, and it irritates this particularly irritable shrink-person when I start listing new symptoms. He's not one for change. He likes to keep with the status quo. Maybe I'll make some stuff up today, just to completely mess with HIS head for once. Wait. He might have me committed if I do that. On second thought...just give me the drugs and we'll call it good.

And then, later tonight, my daughters and one of my Daisies and I are going to bring supplies to pack bags for foster children, at the Girl Scout Council. I'm kind of excited about it. I have a special place in my heart for foster kids, and I look forward to seeing how much has been collected for them. What a life they have. I like to pay it forward when I can.

Saturday starts the homeschooling days (they last thru the 25th) in colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown, and we've got our tickets this year! I'm excited. Hopefully there will be as much really fun stuff as I've been told there is, and the kids won't be bored to tears. We've been here 8½ years and have NEVER done the "colonial thing" yet, so it's about dang time, ya think?

I chopped my hair off about 3-4 months ago, super duper short, and now it's grown back enough that I'm in that awkward "should I cut it again or let it grow" phase. I am so torn. It's cute short, but I miss ponytails. Life's tough decisions, you know?

I guess I don't really have much else to say, so I'm gonna go download the three free American Girl apps to my iPhone, like I promised my eldest AG-obsessed child. We're going to DC in a week or so to get her a look-alike doll and have loads of fun in the store, and I think I'm as excited as she is!

Welp, have a good week(end), y'all, and maybe, just maybe, I'll see you back here this time next Friday.


Aloha Friday


Link up here if you're questioning today. Thanks, Kailani, for hosting Aloha Friday for us!

My question for you this week is:

What are your traditions when it comes to your kids' birthdays? Do you always have a party for them? Never? Only on certain years? What's your strategy?

I'm kind of willy-nilly on when we do a party (pretty much, when we can afford it and when I'm in the mood, is how it goes, lol), but one thing we ALWAYS do is have a "Poor Man's Birthday Party." By that, I mean we collect all the freebies that businesses offer and go wild redeeming them! You can read about our latest such birthday on Wednesday here.

Have a great weekend. Remember...


Chloë Raine Turns The Big 1-0!


All right, so check it out: on Wednesday, my oldest baby in all the world, the one and only, Curls, aka Clorox, aka Chlo-Bo, aka Chloë Raine, turned TEN years old! This is her in the morning before we headed out to our Christian Military Homeschooling Co-op's "Not Back To School" Breakfast Pajama Party. Yes, even I wore my PJs, which were about eight sizes too big, but it was either that or the skimpy stuff, and well, you know, it wasn't that kind of party. (And no, I have never been to that kind of party.) Anyway. She was, as you can see, entirely too excited about turning ten years old. Well, "too" isn't the word. Omit that. Just plain excited is more like it. And who wouldn't be? Ten is HUGE, right??

There were myriad snafus at the party; it was just one big comedy of errors, all of which led to one giant omission: I didn't take a single picture of the occasion, even though I promised the absent-but-present-in-spirit leaders of said co-op that I would do exactly that. And we sang to Chloë and another birthday girl present at the party, and did cupcakes and the whole bit for it, and everything. Not one dang picture. Gah! But let's not dwell on that, because I took 94 pictures of the rest of her big day, and we shall focus on that. Not that I'm going to show you all 94 pictures, or this page would never load.


After the shindig ended around noon-thirty, we cleaned up our mess and headed right down to the Oceanfront to play miniature golf. My pal Ashley, for whom I have yet to assign a nickername (and I don't think she'd appreciate "Trashley,") had given me a Groupon for 4 people to play, plus two funnel cakes. What an awesome gift to start off our "Poor Man's Birthday Party," as I call our birthdays-full-of-freebies! Neither of the girls had ever played any kind of golf before, and I'm not sure if Jack has with the Cubs, but they all pretty much stunk. Know what, though? I stink at it, too. So, the four of us were fairly evenly matched, except that I had to teach them the rules of the game. The miniature game, that is. Don't ask me about the rules of an actual fairway, 'cause I haven't got a clue.


I did find it interesting that Sophia, a Southpaw, stood the same way as the rest of us Righties to hit the ball. I tried telling her she might want to try the other direction, but she wasn't interested. It's all good.


I couldn't convince Jack to (a) hold the club properly, (b) hit the ball gently when he was a foot away from the hole, (c) not stop the ball when it kept moving past where he thought it ought to be, or (d) not pick up the ball and put it back where he did think it should be. He kept saying, "oops, sorry!" every time I reminded him of any of those things, which was, like, every other five seconds. Since I was in Birthday Mood, I just laughed it off, or else the competitive spirit in me might have gotten fired up about it! Although I admit I might have said "freakin'" once or twice, as in, "Stop touching the freakin' ball, Jack!"


On this particular hole, my ball was the first (and second) to go into "the drink," as my gran'pappy would have called it - although I could have lied and said that never happened, as there is no photographic evidence of such events. But that wouldn't be "Honest and Fair," which is the part of the Girl Scout Law my Daisies and I are working on this week, so I'm telling y'all the truth. Chloë was second to have to fish her ball out of the drink. (Speaking of balls, I never tired of saying, "Stay off the green, and don't touch your balls!" whenever it was my turn to give my bright orange ball a whack and I couldn't watch the youngsters. "Don't touch your balls!" I'm so mature.) Chloë also had to fish her all out of the drink two times. Team Odette rocks at putt-putt, y'all.


Twice fishing for Jacky, too. Haha! We so suck at this game, but since all four of us sucked equally, it was fun for everyone. They had a total blast. I don't have pictures of Sophia's ball in the drink, which makes me think hers didn't go in - but She of the Amazing Strength kept whacking her ball so hard it would fly clear across three or four holes and into some other form of golf-related trouble. Once, we even had to replace it, because it was lost completely. She'd probably give Tiger Woods a run for his money!


I didn't let them win, but this is Chloë's reaction upon my adding up the scores and announcing that she won amongst the kidlets! Fair and square, the birthday girl did the best. This, even after discovering on the third or fourth hole that we were, in fact, aiming for the LOWEST score and not the highest. **Snort**


After our four balls (hee) plunked into the hole (hehe) at the end of Hole 18, the kids discovered a "pirate ship" playground, complete with a fireman's pole-type, uh, pole, which kept them occupied for about 72 days or 15 minutes or something. They really liked that thing. We'd probably still be there if it wasn't hotter'n blue blazes that day, and we were getting all sweaty. Oh, and if I hadn't conveniently remembered the matter of the free funnel cakes we still had coming to us. Heh heh. (Hey, I was bored. Maybe I shoulda gone down the fireman's pole, too.)


Here's Sophia oh-so-patiently awaiting the arrival of the funnel cakes. Not.


I discovered that the kids' hands and feet were all orange from the fireman's pole, so I sent them to wash up before the funnel cakes arrived. Jack came back first and dug right in. I admit, I didn't wait for Birthday Girl and had some before she returned, too. Mmm, mmm - good stuff!


But, it doesn't look like she minded much, does it? She got plenty and there was some to spare. Too bad Daddy wasn't with us or it would've all gotten eaten fo' sho'!


What kid doesn't love these things? I don't know, but mine go nuts for them. Nuts, I tell ye!


Love. They LOVE these fool things. (Btw, what is up with cornhole boards? Are they all the rage now or something? I seem them advertised everywhere. What's the deal?!)


I had a few extra quarters, so I let each of the kids get one of these piratey-themed bouncy balls, after confirming that's what they were and not, in fact, gum. Jack's the only one who can have gum (Sophia never throws hers away in the proper place, and Chloë can't have it with her dental appliance), so that wouldn't have been fair. In any case, all three are probably long lost by now!


Here's my eight-year-old boy saying goodbye - a few dozen times - to the super-cute girl behind the counter. Can you say "first crush"? Yeah. He's eight. Is it time for that stuff already?!


After we finally finished at the golf course, I called my homeschooling pal Jenny From the Block to have her and her kids - sickly though they were - meet us at the mall to ride the carousel. When you join their birthday club, you get to take 9 friends with you for free, not including parents, who are free anyway. Sweet deal, right? So Jenny FTB hopped in the shower, and we drove past the mall to pick up a Victoria's Secret gift card I'd snagged on Freecycle that morning while we waited for them to get ready. It was for ten bucks, and when we got to the mall, we found all kinds of perfumes on sale for - wait for it - ten bucks! So I let my tween birthday girl pick out her favorite scent (read: the bottle she found most appealing), and we didn't owe a dime. Sweet score! (And she made a point of telling me that - see those skimpy blue undies in the back? - that those wouldn't look good on me right now because of all my extra skin. Thanks, kid. LMAO)


I'd gotten a $5 birthday gift certificate in my email inbox for both Chloë and me, so I of course gave her mine, which made $10 in free money for her to spend at Build-a-Bear Workshop. We headed down the mall hall after Vicki's to spend it. She already knew she wanted a pair of rollerskates for her BAB kitty, and she kept praying out loud that they wouldn't be more than ten bucks. Lo and behold, they were only six bucks! She found these silky undies for her kitty - complete with a rose decoration that her hand is covering - for $3.50, so after tax, we owed mere pennies for these two otherwise free presents. Yep, that grin was genuine. She was having a grand day.


Team BB (Jenny from the Block and her two kids, G and M) texted me to let me know they'd arrived at the mall, so we scooted over to meet them at the carousel. There was no wait and no charge for the ride, so on we went. Sophia and Jack stayed on the lower level, while the rest of us headed to the upper tier. Here's my birthday girl on the horse she picked, looking cute as a button, no?


Whoops, I didn't realize M blinked during her photo op. Sorry, M!


My loverly friend, Jenny from the Block (who has nice teeth, I just noticed), and her adorable son, G


Sophia was already having a blast spinning her spinny thing downstairs, before the ride even started. Goofball.


As it turns out, so was Jack, in his. Goofball #2. The ride started immediately after this picture was taken, so I was stuck sitting nearby on a bench instead of on the horse next to my birthday kid like I'd planned. Ah, well. Can't win 'em all, right? No one showed up to ride - it was in the middle of a school day, after all - so I'm pretty sure they gave us an extra long turn on the ol' carousel for the birthday girl. Nice, right?


Another cool thing about the carousel birthday club thing is that each rider gets a free punching balloon - at least at our mall. Who doesn't love a punching balloon? That's like, high on my list of Favorite Things in the World. Punch, punch, punch. Chloë, notoriously immature for her age, suddenly acted the part of the growing-up tween in many ways, including this one: When M's balloon accidentally popped shortly after receiving it, almost immediately Chlo turned to her and said, "You can have mine!" and handed her the balloon. I was bursting with pride over that smooth move.


For my birthday, I got a BOGO Free coupon for Auntie Anne's pretzels, so the seven of us walked down there to get a couple cinnamon ones. Team BB shared theirs, while Chloë shared hers with her siblings. I neither got, nor wanted, nor should have had any, especially after eating the funnel cake earlier in the day. (Besides, I like the ones with crushed almonds, so there.)


When yummy snacks are involved, this oft-squabbling trio somehow manage to get along. Amazing.


I don't remember if M got any pretzel - I think she opted out - but G sure enjoyed his!


Oh, my Jenny FTB, you are so silly!

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Speaking of my silly Jenny, she later texted me this image of her in the new shirt I gave her. See, I had a $10 birthday gift certificate to Torrid (because I'm a Diva), and these Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles t-shirts on clearance for $9.98 were pretty much all that appealed to me in the "get it for free" price range. The shirt didn't fit me, but I figured I could use it for a comfy nightgown around the house, y'know? So when I showed it to Jenny FTB during our pretzel-engorging time, she was all raggin' on me because it wasn't my size. Turns out it would be her size, however, so after mucho back-and-forth, I convinced her to take it as my thank-you for coming out and sharing some of Chloë's birthday fun with us, despite not feeling so hot. Doesn't it look super cute on her?! I think so, too.


These rides were right next to the pretzel hut, and I still had quite a few quarters on me, so what the heck? I treated Sophia and M to this ride, and...


...Chloë, Jack and G squeezed in together on this one. Jenny FTB tried to give me her sole quarter, but I made that big spender keep her cash. LOL!


Then we headed over to Charlotte Russe, where I'd gotten a $5 Gift Certificate for my birthday, too. Jenny FTB immediately found a wallet in that price range that she loved, and since she rilly, rilly needed a new wallet, I was all, "Here, take the $5 GC." And you know what? Giving feels really good. I felt pleased, and she was happy, and the new wallet works for her, and yay yay!

And then we went over to the JC Penney Portrait Studio to use my coupon for a free sitting fee and free 8x10, thinking the seven of us could take a silly picture or eleven together. But you know what? Unlike Sears' coupon, the JCP sitting fee apparently only covers ONE person, which is lame. So JFTB and I looked at each other, scowled, and then decided to just let Chloë get HER pictures taken. I mean, it was her birthday, right? It only made sense. I can't copy any of the pictures off the site or I totally would, but hopefully you can see them here. If Slide 1 is of a close-up of her face with the balloons around it, that's the one I ordered for my free 8x10. Which would you have chosen?


After that, we were pretty much mall-tired, so we all trucked down to our closely-parked vehicles and hugged each other good-day a hundred bunches of times. I'm so glad they were able to come out; it was a blast hanging out with them, and I know Chloë would agree! (And yes, I was making them say, "Happy Birthday, Chloëëëë!" for the picture, and yes, Jack was rolling his eyes about it. He was being a total punk that day!!)

We returned home, then, and woke up Daddy, so that he could come with us for the rest of Poor Man's Birthday Party. He changed out of his uniform lickety-split, and off we went again, for more fun!

First, we went to Sonic for our two free Wacky Pack kids' meals. I had a coupon for two, for my birthday and Chloë's. We let Sophia and Jack eat those. Happily, they both picked the apple slices as their sides, with no encouragement from the 'rents. Booya!

Then, we went to Ruby Tuesday for a free burger, fries and some other side (green beans?) that I got for my birthday but obviously wasn't going to eat, so that was Rob's dinner.


Silver Diner gave Chloë a free meal for her birthday, so she chose the mac-and-cheese entrée with a side of strawberries (again, no prompting!), and a strawberry shake. My kids LOVE eating at Silver Diner, but since only Chlo got a free meal, we took it to-go, like everyone else. Yep, I let them eat in car after just getting a car wash (for a mystery shop, natch). I'm a glutton for punishment. Guess I'll have to take another such shop soon!


Chick-Fil-A was right next to Silver Diner, and I happened to have a coupon for a free chicken sandwich from probably over a year ago, so I drove over and redeemed that without a hitch. I ate a third, and then Sophia ate a third, and I think the other third went into the round filing cabinet. I would've eaten it later, but whatev.


From there, we headed down to Chuck E. Cheese's to redeem Chloë's birthday coupon for 20 free tokens. Twenty isn't a lot, but they made it go pretty far and managed to spend about 40 minutes in the place, so it was worthwhile. I doled them out, giving six each to the Littles and eight to Chloë, with surprisingly no complaints. Now, looking at this picture, I'm wondering what was so fascinating on the side, there!

The three kids went off in three different directions, so I'm always thankful for their blacklight kid-numbering system when we go! Jack always heads for this shooty-thingy, so it wasn't too hard to track him down. In this picture, what I see, though, is how tiny he still is. (He still fits into some 6-month baby swim shorts, if that tells you much!)


Sophia was a little harder to track down, since she zipped right away from me and is good at finding hidey-holes. But find her I did, for once not riding the bike-helicopter ride that goes up and down. That's her favorite thing-a-ma-jig.


I pretty much followed Chloë around after that, waiting for good birthday photo ops. Found one!


Make that two! :) After this, I kicked her butt at air hockey. I play a mean game of air hockey, and by that, I mean, "against ten year old wimpy girls."


The kids all crowded around to watch Chloë play her last token, while Rob and I stood back and made jokes about honey pots.


One of the things the kids enjoy the most at CEC is feeding the ticket muncher machine. They fight over it! I'd get in the fray, too, if it wouldn't be juvenile, because that thing is F.U.N. With their 20 tokens - half spent on rides and not games - they managed to earn exactly 50 tickets. Not too shabby.


It's hard to divvy up 50 tickets amongst three children, so without my even asking, the ticket redemption counter guy said he would round it up to sixty, to make it even. Thank heaven for small favors. (Although, 50 doesn't really "round up" to 60, but I'm not complainin'!)


Sophia picked a 20-point pink rubber spider (hence the scary face). Chloë chose a sweet tarts a top, and Jack opted or sweet tarts and a sticker sheet. Hey. They were happy, and once again, you can't beat free!


We ran across the street after that, so I could redeem my birthday coupon for a free Homewrecker (well, that's what I chose, anyway) from Moe's. Welcome to Moe's! Love that place.  It took me three or four sittings to eat that thing, and I think I puked every time anyway. Le sigh.

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The fun wasn't over yet. We stopped at AC Moore so I could run in and redeem my free birthday coupons there, and I managed to get these Crayola markers and glue sticks for practically nothing - both hot commodities around here, so woot!


Our last stop of the night was at Chili's, to get our free birthday brownie sundae. It was mine, by rights, but I gave it to Chloë, who shared it with the rest of Team Odette. Except me. No thanks, can't do it! Here she is, eagerly awaiting the treat.


I had to take this picture fast. The brownie sundae disappeared in a flash. Oh, hi, iPhone.


That was the end of our freebie tour for the day. Chloë wanted to go home and, indeed, so did I! There were mini cupcakes leftover from the PJ party that morning (and I got some ribbing for bringing store-bought cupcakes when I'm supposed to be the baker!), and I wanted to do candles and sing to her, so we did that. Only Jack and Sophia had a cupcake, though Sophia probably had three when I wasn't looking...


She's either praying or thinking of a wish. Or both.


I hope ALL your wishes come true, Baby Doll!


It wasn't really intended as a birthday present, but since I'd gotten the flute at the co-op party that morning (to be paid for later, in installments - and I got a good deal to boot) from another homeschooling mom, I presented it to her as such. She's been wanting flute lessons. I'm going to try to find a tutor from one of the local colleges, for cheap lessons, though the same mom gave me a lesson book from which to learn, too.


All you musicians out there are cringing at this picture, eh? We have lots to learn. Lots. Although I did teach her how to put her mouth and lips, because this was killing me!

All in all, it was a splendid day, and she proclaimed it, as she does every single year, "The Best Birthday EVER!" but, "And this time I mean it!"

As for me, I spent my 35th birthday yesterday writhing in headache pain, lying down and letting the kids chill, until it was finally time for me to get up, shower, and prepare my plan for the Daisy meeting two hours later. Thankfully, Rob came home early, so Jack could stay home with him while we girls headed to Girl Scouts for the first meeting of the year. I thought it went really well, all things considered. I only have five girls (so far) this year, which is a much more manageable number than the eight and nine we had at various times last year! I do miss my "old" girls, but I love having my five familiar little ones back again, too.


The headache lasted throughout the evening and into the night, but I was cheered considerably by the sight and sounds of Sophia reading to Chloë, with minimal help from Big Sis. And when Big Sis did help, she was pleasant and considerate, not bossy or critical. It was absolutely a wonderful sight to behold, and I loved every minute of watching and listening to them. Sophia's reading has improved by leaps and bounds in the past month, and I know she is so proud of herself, as she should be!

And that, my friends, is the end of the birthdays for 2011. Thanks for reading and commenting as a birthday present to me! Hehe - see what I did there? ;)




Please Answer This Poll!

As some of you may know, I'm going to re-start my Jafra business in mid-September, and I'm going to try and kick it into high gear, as time allows. So I have a question for you, and I'd love for you to give me your thoughtful and honest feedback. (Note if you're reading this on Google Reader, Bloglines, etc.: There is a poll embedded below. Please come to my site to respond.)




Sophia's Ongoing Breathing Issues...

On Thursday, the other kids and I took Sophia to CHKD for her Neurology appointment to figure out what's going on with her breathing issues. Yes, it has been a full YEAR since this started, and we still do not have complete answers. But we are steadily working on pinpointing the problem.

The neurologist was great. DILM, as we'll call her, was caring, thorough, and understanding of everything I had to tell her about what we'd been through until that point. She understood what I was saying: that I agreed there was probably {definitely} a stress/psychosomatic component to the daytime shortness of breath issue, there was probably also a physical, organic root cause to the underlying issue, especially since Sophia was experiencing central sleep apnea in addition to that.

So. Sophie's scheduled for an MRI on the 29th, to rule out issues with her brain stem that could be causing the issue(s). Since she is terribly afraid of shots and needles, we are luckily going to be able to draw the labs she needs to rule out thyroid problems and iron-deficient anemia while she is under sedation for the MRI. How they're going to get the medicine to her to sedate her, I don't know, but hopefully she'll be able to drink something or have a gas mask, as opposed to an IV, because seriously, it practically takes an entire football team to hold her down to get a needle in the poor, shrieking child.

DILM asked me a lot of questions, and we were pretty much able to rule out seizures as a cause of the daytime breathing issue, but she gave me a number of things to look for in case that does ever happen, and I'm to call her right away for an appointment if we do ever notice anything "weird" during an episode that would indicate a seizure had taken place. Thankfully, though, neither of us think Sophia has been having that problem.

Down the road, after the MRI and stuff, we're also going to address Sophia's possible ADHD and treatments we can try aside from medications, which she understood I'm shying away from for my children. She said this could all be interconnected, especially if there are thyroid issues.

So that's where we stand, pretty much. 'Round and 'round we go, where it stops, nobody knows.

Wish us luck on the 29th!



Sunday Stealing: Yet Another 20Q Meme


Link up here if ye be thievin' today!

1. Do you believe in Heaven?

Absolutely, I do.

2. Have you ever come close to dying?

I have, by my own hand, and from severe pre-eclampsia (nearly stroked out).

3. What jewelery do you wear 24/7?

My wedding, engagement, and anniversary rings, and my nose ring.

4. Would you ever consider having plastic surgery?
Yup, to have my extra skin removed from my weight loss.

5. What do you wear to bed?

Honestly, if I even sleep, I usually fall asleep in whatever I wore during the day!

6. Have you ever done anything illegal?

Yes. We'll leave it at that. ;)

7. Who was the last person that you touched?

My 6yo daughter, Sophia. Trying to get that girl to go to bed... it's futile.

8. Where did you eat last?

Right here, right now, I'm having a little pizza.

9. Besides your own blog, are there any that you routinely read but never comment on?

Oh yeah, I read lots of blogs I never comment on, or almost never. But I'm way behind in my blog reading in the last year.

10. Ever been involved with the police?

Involved how? I was involved with someone who wasn't an officer of the law then but is now. ;)

11. Do you talk in your sleep?

I certainly do, and apparently I say some weird stuff!

12. Now a celebrity fantasy. Who would you take on a ménage à trois for a dirty weekend?

Clapton, Eric. Or Damon, Matt, if Eric was busy. Or, well, both.

13. Do you feel that you’ve had a truly successful life?

That's too heavy a question for my current mood. Ehh... I feel parts of it have been successful. It's all in how you define it, and by my definition, it's too soon to tell.

14. Where do you wish you were?


15. Have you ever ridden in an ambulance?

At least five times, yeah. Probably more.

16. Is there any type of dancing that you love to do?

I would love to learn to swing dance. I think I'd be really good at that. I would need a good partner, though, of course.

17. Last gift you received?

The gift of prayer from an unexpected source - and it helped.

18. Last sport you played?


19. Last place you went on holiday?

Charleston, SC.

20. Current Song?

"Rolling in the Deep," by Adele. That's a radio-blaster for me.

Have a good weekend, y'all!


Saturday 9: Money Grabber


Link up here if you're playing along today!

1. Has anyone ever intentionally ripped you off? Or perhaps unintentionally?

Funnily (or not, whatev) enough, someone did recently rip me off, and I was trying to figure out how to pursue it when just TODAY, in the mail, she sent me the payment she owed me. So. There you go. I can't think of any other shining examples, but I'm sure it's happened.

Oh yeah, Protect America is a rip-off. Please don't ever sign up with them!

2. When was the last time that you made a quip that fell completely flat and embarrassed you?

I don't know why I can't think of anything, since this seems to happen to me constantly!

3. When you go to sleep, does it you need to be absolutely quiet or do you need a little noise (radio, TV, music or white)?

Either way, I can sleep if I'm ready to sleep, and can't if I'm not. The noise and light don't seem to be a factor for me... although they probably are, and I just don't realize it. (I have major sleep issues.)

4. Do you have a memorable "ripped clothing" moment in your life? No? How about in someone else's? (Come on, you know you have something to contribute!)

I have had my clothing ripped off me in a threatening attack. Not something I want to think about at present, sorreh!

5. What's changed on your blog since its inception? ...a redo? ...a change of pace? ...or is it still business as usual?

Nothing but the appearance, which I change several times a year. Other than that, it's the same ol' me stuff.

6. Can you remember where you were in life ten years ago? If you could travel back in time and whisper something to yourself ten years ago, what would it be?

Sadly, I can remember exactly where I was 10 years ago. Is that sad? Whatever, again. Anyway, I was 36 weeks pregnant with my oldest, Chloë, which means she will be turning 10 in four days!! So, at that time, I was busy waddling around and putting the finishing touches on her sweet little nursery. Those were the best times...Oh! And I would whisper, "She's coming early, in four days, and there will be problems. Be strong and be her (and your) best advocate!"

7. Okay, let's have it! What's the craziest, most impulsive thing you've ever done?

I eloped with a man I met two months before on the internet! And as mentioned above, we had a borderline-premature baby exactly 8 months, 5 days later. Wedding night pregnancy is not the greatest when you're such a new, unsettled couple! LOL... but, it's worked itself out, and that was almost 11 years ago. We're happy.

8. If you were having a bad day what or who would you turn to for comfort?

In this order: (1) My husband, (2) my anxiety pills, (3) my friends/family or at last resort, Facebook, and (4) knitting or reading.

9. According to the song White Rabbit, "one pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small." If you were offered these pills today, which pill would you take and where would it take you?

I would take the 'small' pill, and it would take me to the plastic surgeon's office to remove the extra skin left behind from my recent 200+ pound weight loss. And then I would be teensy.

Havenzie good weekend!