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Entries from April 2013

Moms Love mombo™ Nursing Pillows!

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Comfort and Harmony for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

Are you a nursing mama?  I'm sure you've seen, heard of and probably even used other nursing pillows, but I'd like to tell you about the mombo nursing pillow, an awesome nursing pillow available at Toys R' Us and Babies R' Us.

Jump in with comments if you've seen the mombo™ in stores - I'd love to know!

If you've used it, then you already know it's the best nursing pillow out there. WHY? Listen to this: It has a unique shape and a really cool two-sided design called Firm2Soft™ - with one side firmer for nursing and the other side softer for lounging or tummy time. Plus, it has a vibration feature, to give your baby the ultimate soothing experience while lounging. Doesn't that sound awesome?! I really would have loved to try it when my babies were nurselings. (Bet I'd have lounged on it myself, too.)

Check out all the mombo™ products available here, and tell me which ones you're most interested in trying. Also, let me know if you think you're going to get one for your wee babe! Look at all those designs and slipcover fashions. I love the Lion King and Taggies ones! Choose your style from Standard, Deluxe, or Nude™. You can pick multiple slipcovers, so you'll always have a spare on hand. You know babies leak, after all.

Don't forget to check out Comfort & Harmony on Facebook and also Comfort & Harmony on Twitter - "like" and follow, of course!


Visit Sponsor's Site

VLOG: Kids Get Kindles


As I told you a few days ago, I ordered Kindle Fire HDs for each of the kids, along with cases, chargers, a stylus 6-pack, and... I think that's it? They were supposed to come Friday by 8 PM, so at 8:08 PM, when they weren't delivered, I was all over Amazon looking up my order status. It said "delivery attempted," so I was like, "WTF?!" and immediately called up the shipping company. The delivery had apparently been attempted before noon, but no notice was left, and I was pissed. Then they told me I could pick it up on Monday, and I really flipped the script. I literally whined, "NOOOO!!!!" The guy on the phone, who was very calm and sweet, asked me what was in them, since they were obviously so important. I told him, and explained we needed them for our homeschooling, guess what? He understood, because he was homeschooled himself as a lad.

He worked some magic and made it possible for us to go in Saturday morning to pick them up. Rob went with Jack to get them, since I had an atrocious migraine when he woke me up to tell me it was almost 10:00, the appointed pick-up time. Thanks, Baby!

Most of our curriculum is online, except for Math (we use Math-U-See) and Spanish (Rosetta Stone is en route now). Oh, okay, and Art and Music... okay, okay, so only about a third of our curriculum is online, but still, it's a lot, and they all will need to be online at once. One laptop shared amongst three kids really held us back this past year, and we fell way behind where I wanted to be. Three Kindles, the content of which I can control online? Awesomesauce.

If you could see the video above, I think you could tell how excited the kids were about getting them. Even though we're not getting wi-fi until later today and they couldn't get online with them, they haven't put them down for a second, even taking them with them in the car to go mystery shopping with me. Fun, fun. I can't wait to let them really start using them!

Do your kids have tablets? Do y'all have a Kindle? If so, please let me know some great kid apps to put on there! Jack has asked me repeatedly for Angry Birds, so I'll put that of course, so I need other games and educational ones, too. Spanx!


Key Largo, Montego, Baby Why Don't We Go...

On Wednesday, I had to do a fun mystery shop in Key West, so we decided to take the 7-hour round-trip down there as a family to show Rob and the kids around the keys a bit. Admittedly, the shop did not pay for itself, what with the gas and all we did there, but we wanted to go down there anyway, and that was a good excuse to go.


This was me before our trip, at the doctor's office. I have a new, irregularly-outlined, black spot on the side of my chin that looks bad, bad, bad, so I needed to get it checked out. I sat in the office from 1300 through 1500 before getting frustrated and irritated and rescheduling the appointment. Halfway down to Key West, the receptionist (or someone) called me from the office and apologized profusely, so I forgive them a little bit, but that's beginning to become par for the course at doctors' offices here in Miami, and I do not want to have to get used to it. Bugger.


In Marathon, in the Keys, there is a small airport that Jack wanted to visit. It was time to get out and let them stretch their legs, so we decided to have a look around and poke into the museum a bit.


I'd seen that they did helicopter tours on the sign, and that's been on my bucket list for a long time, so I inquired within, as they say. It was very affordable, but I needed at least one other person to go with me to make it worth their while. We couldn't leave the kids alone, obviously, so Rob was out, and Jack and Chloë didn't have the bravery. Sophia was all for it, though, so we signed up for a trip! Only, when we got in the chopper, she freaked out a little bit about their being no doors. And then, Kevin, the awesome and understanding pilot, started 'er up, and she freaked out a LOT. I mean, shaking, tears, screaming, the whole bit. You'd think she was getting a shot or something, the way she was carrying on. I tried to calm her down, soothe her, and talk her back into it, but she was having none of it. So Kevin had to stop the engine, ride us back into the terminal, and give us our money back. I was disappointed, but ah, well. Another time.


On Long Key, there's a marine science lab I used to frequent as both an undergrad and a graduate student, for studies and training. And there was a restaurant next door we always visited, too. So it was with great apprehension that I looked for the lab during the drive, having seen far too many unlikeable changes in the upper keys (too many chains, not enough kitsch). Thankfully, the lab was still there - though we didn't have time to stop this time - but the restaurant, sadly, was gone. It's not too sad, though; they did serve veal, after all. So after a long, long, long drive (thanks to many silly stops along the way), we finally arrived in Key West. At last! I did my mystery shop while Rob and Company went to the beach.


After my shop, we decided to walk around and find a seafood restaurant. I mean, you're in the Keys; you might as well have some crab or something, right? My kids were dressed in their new tropical finery I'd picked up on the mystery shop, but I can't find the picture now of the three of them decked out. This one will have to suffice, of Sophia looking pretty, along with these two of Chloë and Jack:


Curly Girl, looking gorgeous as always


Jacky, doing the two-straw sip


This was the first seafood restaurant we happened upon, so we went in. Remember the name, so you can avoid the place if you want decent seafood. Trust me on this.


On the other hand, if you're just going to drink (and who doesn't drink in Key West? It's not unusual to see people staggering from bar to bar until the wee hours of the morning, all over the streets downtown), the Margaritas are fantastic. so there's that.


Rob and I decided to get the lobster/scallops/shrimp combo. I didn't try the shrimp, but he said they were fine. Conversely, as I told our server (whose demeanor went from awesome to The Suck after this), the lobster tasted like dirt, and the scallops tasted like nothing at all. Horrible. The worst seafood I ever experienced. Do NOT waste your money on seafood here; they apparently don't care enough about the lack of repeat business to cook it well. Ugh, I was sorely disappointed. And I even puked, it was so bad. Three times. And not just because I was sloshed. Heh. (I only drank about ¼ off my Margarita before passing it off to Rob; it was wicked strong.)


Rob gets conch fritters every chance he gets, so of course he had to get these. He said they were fine, too, but I didn't try them - never have, never will - so I can't verify.


Of course,  neither Rob nor I was fit to drive after dinner, so we had to walk around some more and see what was what. We found a souvenir shop - more like a souvenir mall - and Sophia exhibited more of her quintessential Sophie style, trying on hats and boas and all sorts of things. Love that kid!


I tried on a rastafarian hat with dreds, but the only thing Rob said was, "NO." Okay, fine, but I still think I rocked it. No? Maybe not. I did end up getting a sari/wrap dress thing that can be tied multiple ways. I forgot about it until I went through all the bags yesterday, so I think I'll wear it today. I might even take a picture to show you; it's so pretty!


Rob wanted a picture of the Conch Republic Key West flag, and his iPhone was dead, so here ya go, honeybuns!


The girls managed to talk me into these scarves that went with their new dresses. I liked them, too, and I may have to steal them from them once or twice!


Rob was thrilled to find himself next to Sloppy Joe's, a famous Hemingway hangout back in the day. We didn't make it over to the Hemingway estate to find the six-toed cats the kids were eager to see, though. Maybe next week, when we go down again, we'll get the chance.


The sign for "Smack Your Mom in the Mouth" meatloaf cracked me up, so I decided to get something to eat at this deli. Not the meatloaf, of course, but a bagel and cream cheese hit the spot. I was ravenous after the big Dinner Fail earlier.


We had walked a long time and a longer still ways from Penelope by that point, so we decided to hitch a ride on a bike-driven Pedicab (cyclecab?) with a nice Russian dude who agreed to carry all five of us in one trip. Here's my mini-me posing with her mama...

... and that was our short jag down to the keys. I was hoping to stop by some local road stands and get some fresh produce and local seafood on the way back, but they're hard to find at 3 in the morning, ya know? I wonder why.


Sunday Stealing: The Three Wishes Meme

Link up here if you're playing along today!

1.) What are three things on your wish list, and why?

a. Braces - I've already had them twice as a kid, but I need them again. I have a small jaw, and my teeth are overcrowded despite having 8 or 10 teeth removed.

b. A DSLR camera - I'm not a great photographer, but I want to learn and improve. I had a DSLR already (an awesome Nikon), but it got stolen along with all my lenses months ago from our old house. I'm still bereft about it!

c. Yarn, always the yarn. I love knitting in my 'spare' time, and I can't get enough of soft-pretties!

2.) What do you miss about your childhood?

Not much; it pretty much sucked. I miss my mommy like crazy, though, even after 29 years...

3.) What do you do on your spare time on the weekends? 

There's not a lot of that, but we like to go to the beach when I'm not mystery shopping. Otherwise, any spare time these days is spent unpacking, cleaning, and organizing our new home.

4.) What do you appreciate most in your life? 

I thank God every day for my beautiful family. I have an amazing, supportive husband and three gorgeous, hilarious, clever children. And I'm grateful for where we live now. I feel lucky; I have a wonderful life.

5.) Would you rather be rich or healthy? 

I'd much rather be healthy, which means no Bipolar Disorder. I hate that I have it and am so controlled by it and my medications. But, it's my cross to bear.

6.) If you could go back in time would you and why? 

If I could go back, I'd reset what happened either with my mom's sudden, untimely, unexpected death, or my son's. Neither should have happened; both were preventable.

7.) Favorite game as a child?

I loved playing cards with my grandma. It's a toss-up between Gin Rummy, Uno, and Skip-bo as to which was our favorite to play. We played cards constantly whenver I visited them!

8.) What is your dream career? 

I would be a singer or gymnast if I could do either well.

10.) Favorite clothing stores? 

I'm a big fan of Old Navy - great clothes, cheap! For the kiddos, I love Gymboree and The Children's Place, and I'm sad that they (at least the girls; Jack almost never grows out of clothes) are getting to be too big for them. What next? Justice? Ugh.

12.) 3 things you need in your life are: 

a. Caffeine - I'm having a terrible time quitting the Diet Coke habit.

c. My satchel - it contains the other half of my life. Those two things missing would be enough for a major breakdown! ;)

13.) What can't you sleep without?

My "bearpo," aka my huge teddy bear from Hubs & my brick of a pillow. Both of which, by the way, Rob steals on a continous basis, whenver he gets the chance.

14.) What are you currently a nerd for? 

I'm a nerd, period; I think the word you're looking for is 'geek,' just sayin'. I geek out over yarn, duh!

15.) What is your favorite seasoning?

I'm equally a fan of garlic and lemon pepper seasoning. Mmm! Can't have too much garlic, can you?

16.) What is your favorite wild animal? 

Rob... oh. Not what you meant? It would have to be sharks. My favorite is either the Port Jackson or the wobbegong. (Swagbucks it; they're like a lumpy carpet.)

17.) Name 3 of your favorite childhood shows: 

a. Punky Brewster - I idolized her!

b. Jeopardy! - toldja I was a nerd!

c. Perfect Strangers - Loved Balky and "Cosin Larry Applaton," remember them?

8.) If you could live as a character in a movie who would it be? 

Annie, duh. Although I prefered pretending I was Molly, the wee little orphan I swore I resembled, when I was a tyke.

19.) Favorite vegetable? 

I love a lot of veggies. Corn, even if it's not really one, carrots, broccoli, and potatoes (another non-veg) are favorites.

20.) Favorite Fruit? 

I'm with my daughter Sophia on this one: Strawberries!

21.) If you had a dragon what would you name it? 

There's always gotta be a dumb question, huh? I'd name it Fuego.


22.) What do you put on hotdogs? 

I don't eat hot dogs, gross. Meat, no. Nitrates and nitrites, no thanks. And all those icky preservatives. But even when I did eat that crap, I still put nothing on them.

23.) Do you play online games? 

Not really anymore, but I do play Words With Friends and Scramble With Friends on my iPhone. Wanna play?

24.) What's your favorite way to get inspired?

It's a toss-up between pretty pictures and projects in magazines (I love Martha Stewart Living  and Family Fun for that) and going to a craft store. I could live there. I would buy several of everything and just make stuff all day long, if these people let me.

25.) Do you have a middle name?

Yeah. But it's Ann, which I don't like. Plain and boring, so unlike myself. I'd rather have been born Melanie Penelope!

Eebitty-eebitty-ee, that's all folks!


Saturday 9: Twist And Shout


Link up here if you're playing along today!

1) In the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Ferris climbs up on a parade float and enthusiastically lip synchs this song, encouraging the entire crowd to join in. Do you know the lyrics of "Twist and Shout" well enough to sing along? (Watch the impossibly young Matthew Broderick as Ferris here.)
I know part of them, but not the whole song. I knew it better when I was younger. I danced to it drunkenly in Key West a long time ago, I remember...
2) What other Beatles' song do you know all the words to?

Probably none of them. My dad was (is) a major Elvis fan growing up, so that's what we listened to of my parents' generation, not the Beatles. I know I missed out on a lot, musically speaking, so I only know the Beatles songs we sang in choir!
3) 49 years after their American debut, The Beatles are acknowledged as having a lasting impact on both music and culture. What performers on today's music scene do you think will be remembered 50 years from now?

Bruno Mars is like the second coming of Michael Jackson. I think he'll leave a lasting mark.
4) Paul McCartney is an enthusiastic advocate of the vegetarian lifestyle. Could you/have you tried to "go veggie?"
I am only semi-vegetarian now because I need so much protein and am working toward getting back, but I have been full-on vegan in the past. It's my goal.
5) As a young boy, Ringo Starr suffered a severe attack of appendicitis and almost died. Do you still have your appendix? What about your tonsils?

I don't have a cervix (TMI?), uterus, Fallopian tubes, one of my ovaries, my gallbladder, and most of my stomach. I should probably have had my tonsils and adenoids out long ago, but so far I still have those and my appendix. Sometimes I wonder if I'm missing half my brain, too...
6) John Lennon sketched and doodled when he was bored or nervous. Do you have any
nervous habits?


I bite my lip, and I fidget and play with my hair, my shirt, whatever is handy. Now I keep my keys and iPhone in my hands to avoid doing that as much as possible.
7) George Harrison loved Hawaii so much he bought a 63-acre estate in Maui. Have you ever visited our 50th state?

We flew through Honolulu on our way both in and out of Guam 10½ years ago, but I wouldn't really classify that as a "visit." I didn't get to touch soil, and I certainly didn't get "lei'd" there.
8) Yoko Ono was a polarizing character in the Beatles' saga. Has any of your friends ever dated/married someone you just could not stand?

  No, but my dad has married two woman I couldn't/can't stand. He doesn't choose well.
9) Paul has had dogs his entire adult life, including a sheepdog, Martha, and a black lab, Jet. John was especially fond of a cat named Elvis and a tomcat he found in the snow and named Tim. Tell us about one of your pets.
Well, I've talked about our six cats before, so I'll tell you about this little one. The kids were out riding their bike/skating this afternoon, while I worked on mystery shop reports in the house. They came bursting in, telling me that there was a tiny kitten stuck under a dumpster. I reassured them, saying, "Oh, it's probably fine," thinking it wanted to be under there. Then Rob came home from the store, and he told me that there was indeed a kitten stuck under a dumpster, and he couldn't get it out. He worked tirelessly, with all his strength and tools, to unlodge the poor weeks-old baby, getting injured himself in the process.
Finally, Rob was able to lift up the dumpster (!!!!!) enough to yank the kitty out by a leg. He/she/it was shaken, bloodied, dirty, possibly otherwise injured, and covered in poop. We called a vet, but they were no use, so we went to Petco and got him some infant cat formula and canned food. He was STARVING and smacked loudly as he ate. Then Rob gave him a bath. We talked to the Adoption Services lady at Petco; she's going to give us some dewormer tomorrow and a certificate to have the stray kitty spayed or neutered for free. We'll take care of him/her until s/he's all better (I think it's a girl) and then find her a home. I'm bound and determined NOT to add a 7th cat to our already-full home. We named her Lucky.

Oh, My Dawg, I'm So Excited!!!

...or, How We Spent Our Tax Refund!

        ...or, Man, We Should Be One of Those Couples Who Has To Spend a Million-Dollar Inheritance in 24-Hours Flat!

                   You feel me? But let's move on from these 77 alternate titles and get to the meat of this post.

If you hadn't realized, our federal tax refund hit our bank account yesterday. Here's how we've spent it on the kids and household goods in the day since then:


1. First stop, our local post office. We had to mail five or six packages, including the Progressive Snapshot device I'd never plugged into our Odyssey, Penelope, some video surveillance equipment for a mystery shop I'd (never) done, and the keys to our Virginia Beach house to our realtor back in that town. Plus, I had to buy a roll of stamps. Yes, some of us do still send snail mail. And also, we had to bring our lease in so that we could FINALLY get the keys to our mailbox. It's been 3 weeks, and we still have almost NO mail, save for the little bit that trickles down into our PO Box. Speaking of which, the kids and I went to check it while Rob finished up with the lease business, and there were two cards in it from Aunt Stacey (my sister). She sent cards and money for the two birthday babies, Jack and Sophia, having decided together with me that money was the way to go for our kids' respective birthdays from now on.


2. Next stop, Walmart. We spent a buttload of money on household necessities (and a few un-necessities, but not many) there. And Jack spent his new birthday money on this remote-controlled boat he'd been eyeing for a while.


Sophia spent her birthday money on this horse, which goes with her doll that she'd bought with birthday money from others earlier in the month. Granted, it's not tax money, but it happened yesterday, so I have to tell ya.


Also, Chloë and...




... Sophia both got new pairs of skates, which was and wasn't a splurge. It wasn't an absolute need, no, but they did need to get more and more varied exercise, and I needed a skating partner! Rob wanted to buy me a bike, too, but I figure I'll keep an eye on Freecycle for that. (Side note: Sophia fell on her butt a million times but is already zooming skillfully around the block. Chloë is still falling, but she'll get there, I'm sure. Soon as she lets go of all the tree branches, that is.)


 Other spending at Wally-World included food (absolutely necessary, right?), an iron (Rob had left ours back at the Va Beach house, oops), toilet bowl brushes (because, eww, he forgot those back there, too), a plunger (same story), towels and accessories to match the new shower curtains and mats in both our and the kids' bathrooms (splurge-y), a garbage can (forgot it, too), aaaand new bedding for all three kids (Sophia ruined all the old ones. She does that).




Next up, back at home, I went online to the Florida DMV website because we both need new state licenses, and then we'll need to register Penelope and the motorcycle, and then we'll need to get new insurance policies. (And I still freakin' need to fix the gigantical crack down the middle of my windshield, but that'll keep a li'l longer, won't it? It's been a month and a half already, after all...) But the next appointment - you make 'em online, here - for the DMV isn't until May 6th, so I looked at the docs we'll need for the new licenses. Crap, I need a new Social Security card. So do the kids; ours got stolen, which is not awesome. Lots of other stuff did, too; someone stole our "important papers" lockbox I kept under my desk. Ugh. Anyway. We'll go do that business tomorrow. Of course, they'll want my driver's license, among other things, to get the new card, so now I understand dogs and cats chasing their own tails!




We don't need cable TV - -haven't had it for years- - but we do need internet service. This is 2013, after all, and we have numerous electronic devices needing wi-fi. Not to mention the fact that our iPhones get crap for signals in the house on the LTE network, or 3G or 4G for the matter, and we don't have a landline. So, we put in about a half-dozen phone calls to Comcast to sign up for supah-fast (and cheap, compared to what we were paying for Cox in VA) cable internet service. We'd have done it sooner, but, ah, that's neither here nor there. It's done now, and they're coming Sunday, and I can't wait, and yeah.


Jafra Melanie


Next stop, JAFRA, to place an order. I have gotten several from clients that needed fulfilling, plus I plan to start kicking that into high gear, so I needed a few things myself for said purpose. Yeah. I love JAFRA packages. They smell so damn good and always bring promises of buttery soft skin. Mmm, me likey.




Speaking of our iPhones, I've been boosting off my 5's Personal Hotspot to get online and do all the important stuff like tell you on this blahg about that important stuff, and so I had to go on the AT&T website to pay our big, fat bill. That was that. Can't wait to whittle that back down after the Comcast guy comes with our new, um, nothing?




Speaking of paying the bills, I hopped over to our bank website and put in an extra payment for Penelope, and...




...Elsie, Rob's BMW motorsickle.


(Yes, I spelled it that way on porpoise. C'mon, now.)


And then, the really exciting stuff started. Well, wait, first dinner. The kids must eat. The husband must eat. I... must nibble. I gained about 10 lbs during our move and realized it even before I got my scale back a week ago to confirm it, so I've been eating very carefully and am already down 4 lbs since then. I was hoping to take it off by my birthday in September, so yay. But what? am I talking about??




For dinner, after Rob and the kids cleared off the table and cleaned up the kitchen enough for me to cook in it properly, we laid down the new bamboo runner we'd gotten on clearance from Walmart (a minute splurge, yes, but it went with my Fiestaware, and hey, bamboo!) and used the also-clearanced new cloth napkins (hey, reducing paper waste is a good thing). Since we were going fancyish, I decided to make the kids promise promise promise they wouldn't break the wedding crystal we'd gotten from Dr. Lisa and Uncle Faris, and they did pinky-promise, which is as good as gold 'round here. And guess what? The only person who came even close to breaking one was ME. Yup, I'm still the same ol' klutz I always was, rest assured. PS, the candles were Sophie's idear. We are SO decadent. ;P




I'd gotten this Ninja Chopper from my friend, Yet Another Stephanie, back in VA, but I hadn't put it to good use yet. We had avocados, we had guac mix, and we had tortilla chips, so it was time. And guess what? After a few pulses, we had delicious-ish guacamole. It wasn't the best I've ever had, but compared to the improvised batch I made after Rob and - yes! - the kids quickly polished off this one, it wasn't bad at all. Heh. (Mine wasn't either, but it lacked salt. And lymes. And cilantro. And had too much onion. And tomato. And not enough avocado. Damn, it must've sucked worse than I first rememberated.)




This picture is way washed-out compared to the actual scene, but then I whipped up a pork steak dinner from a recipe I'd gotten on the back of a can of Campbell's chicken broth. There was pasta instead of rice, because that's what I had, and I needed to squeeze fresh juice from oranges rather than use bottled juice, because that's what I had and hello, yummier, but other than that, it was pretty much according to the recipe. Kinda. Anyways. Rob says it was good enough to make again, which is high praise coming from him, but all three kids had upturned noses, the punks. I don't see them doing the whole presentation-is-everything thing on me with hummus and pita, or anything, so humph!




However, Jack and Chloë did enjoy the orange slices in the dinner so well that they requested more for dessert. Um, okay, twist my arm a little bit, why don'tcha.


And NOW for the rilly, rilly exciting part!!!


(You'd better be sitting down now.)


(I mean it.)


(Because this is heady, heady stuff, coming up here in a second.)


Are you ready?


All right.


You asked for it.










I bought stuff for homeschooling!!!!!! Yeah, school, baby! I can't WAIT to delve back in and get the kids back on track and have tons and tons and TONS of fun in the process. I love teaching them!!


Here's what I bought over at the Homeschool Buyers' Co-op:




All FIVE levels of Latin American Spanish from Rosetta Stone!!! Whoop!! For cheap! I have been wanting RS for aaaaaaaages, ever since I did a mystery shop at one of their kiosks (oops, I'm not supposed to tell you that) and saw how well it works. Chloë started angling for German, and I would have been thrilled with Latin, but we all settled on the LAS after thinking about what would be the most useful in our lives right now. I can not WAIT to get my teeny-weeny little hands on this baby. Sirrusly.




I usually piece our Science and Social Studies curricula together myself, but this year (starting now), I'm going to get a little help from the award-winning Adaptive Curriculum. I cannot wait to see how that works for us, especially in Social. Science, I've got down, but our Soshe has been a little, well, piecemeal, so I'd like to get it more organized in their brains, y'know?


For teaching Grammar rules more concretely, I got us a lifetime passport to Grammaropolis, which looks very promising. Sounds like fun, too!




For writing and all that goes with that business, I bought us a year's subscription (which is really enough information, with what I got, to last us through the end of high school if I choose) to Brave Writer, a highly rated program about which I've heard nothing but good stuff. Eeeeeek!


And now for the reeeeeealllllly exciting part!!!!


Can you stand it? I can't!!



Because we want the kids to be technologically savvy, and because so much of their work is computer- and internet-based, I have been wanting to get them each their own laptop or tablet for a while. I've been researching and thinking and debating about it; we've had ONE laptop for the kids up 'til now, and it just doesn't work that well when all three kids need to be online to do assignments. With three, I wouldn't need to constantly rotate them out and cut them short on projects - they could all work simultaneously! So after tons more research, I bought them each a Kindle Fire HD 7" tablet on! Wooohoooo, the
y are going to be so stoked, man!






Of course, to protect their shiny new electronical toys, I got them each a case in a different color. Jack's is green, because, well, it's his favorite, and I couldn't find a boyish pattern to suit him.




I think this one will be Chloë's.


Sophia will like this one.


I don't know how much they'll need or use them, but it remains to be seen, so I got them this pack of 6 styli for their Kindle Fire HDs, and also one - yes, just one - wall charger to share. I figure that much we can do on a rotational basis, right?

But I'm still not done outfitting the kids for the coming year. Nope, nope, nope. I did s'more shopping on ye olde Amazon first:


Sophia needs a new queen-sized mattress for the bunk bed she'll now be sharing with Chloë, because we had to leave her old one behind in Portsmouth (doesn't really matter; it was gross). I got her this memory-foam one, which has really good ratings. Remind me to air it out for two days first...

Oh, and for us, I got a new bed frame since Rob left our old one behind at the Virginia Beach house, which sucks because they aren't as cheap as I thought they were. Booger.


For Jack, I picked up a Yamaha keyboard stand (and a new wall charger, since he lost his). Even though he's decided not to pursue lessons for now, the music store folks convinced us to hang onto the keyboard in case one of the kids picks it up. And I can play, albeit slowly and gingerly, so we can all bang around on it for our music lessons in Sweet Pea Academy. It's cheap but comes highly-rated, so I think this one'll do us just faaaahhhhhn.


And finally (as you all breathe a sigh of relief, I know), the kids have been doing some growing since last I shopped for summer clothing for them. Especially Sophia; she's now, like, a foot taller than Jack! No lie. She needed a new bathing suit and picked this one out at Sears.

They all needed shorts and tees, so I bought bunches upon bunches of those for each kiddo, too, along with one dressy outfit for each kid. Inexplicably, after making a painstaking order there, Sears canceled several of my items and let the rest go through. Buh-wha-huh? I have to call them. I want those things, dammit! They need 'em! But it'll keep 'til 0900. Which, oh, is four minutes from now. Serendipity, baby!

Oh, shit, I totally forgot one more big splurge! Well, not like, a boat big, but Shamu big. *Ahem*


Yep. We're going to Orlando on Monday and Tuesday! Rob still has a little bit more time (a month, maybe) on Active Duty, so that means he and three dependents still get in for fah-reeeee at Anheuser-Busch parks through their ongoing Here's to the Heroes Salute program.  That leaves one kid out, so I bought another ticket, along with our parking pass, dine-all-day passes for Rob and the kids (I'll nibble and graze meagerly), and a stroller rental voucher. I can't wait, and the kids are ecstatic! (The stroller is mostly for Jack, who still has trouble walking sometimes, especially for long periods of time, thanks to his tight Achilles tendons, and also to keep the kid out of the sun here and there, and also in case we want it to carry things around the park without holding them.) Can't wait to see the shows, can't wait to see Shamu, can't wait to see my babies' faces when they get to feed a fish or two to the dolphins. Wheeee! That'll be Monday.


I think we'll do this on Tuesday, but we might not. I don't know yet. We'll see. Maybe we'll just come home Tuesday, or we might hang out with my online friend, Gloria, whom I've not yet met, or maybe we'll... hm. I don't know! Suggestions?

NOW I'm finished.

I have some mystery shops to go do today, along with my doctor's appointment for this thing growing on my chin, soooo.... whew! This post took forEVER to write.


P.S. I'm such a liar. That's not all. HAHAHA. The cats got new beds and litter to poop in - LOTS of litter.

Not-So-Wordless Wednesday: Earth Day 2013


It's super-annoying that Typepad doesn't seem to wanna auto-save anymore, and I lose almost an entire kick-ass post when the screen freezes. But anyways...

While I was going about my business preparing for our Earth Day picnic on Monday, Rob came out wearing this Navy-issue peacoat, with the Meerschaum pipe in his mouth, saying, "Picture me on the bridge of our boat, steering across the Atlantic..." and I totally could. Can you? Course you can. It's still our dream, y'know. In a heartbeat, we would...


I had been searching on the old innernet for Earth Day activities and crafts when I came across The Nature Conservancy's All Hands on Earth picnic website. The idea, in a nutshell, is to foster sustainable food-eating practices by buying local and in-season to reduce, you know, gas and energy consumption from the production and distribution of worlds-away, out-of-season, uh... I said that way better the first time, but you get the gist, right? Right.

I had no fundage available at the time to run out to the Farmer's Market and pick up some deliciousness, so I figured I'd just use what we already had on hand to reduce waste, live frugally, and other great things we try to practice on a daily basis. I had cooked a bunch of chicken tits in the Crock-Pot the night before and still had half a -Pot left, so I tore that up and added some gorgonzola cheese crumbles leftover after our salad fixin's were used up, along with some apples I diced to add some sweetness and crunch. Along with some seasonings and Miracle Whip (Rob's fave), it was aces all around. Total yummo.


We chose Biscayne National Park as the nearby destination for our picnic because, despite the fact that it's too far to walk or ride a bike for us, the idea of Earth Day connotes (to me, anyway) surrounding oneself in the beautiful precious natural resources of our planet, and so it seemed a fitting locale. The last time we were there, I'd gotten a wicked bad sunburn from being too stupid to put on SPF before lying down on a towel with my library book. I just discovered what appears to be a melanoma - for which I'm going to the doc in about 7½ hours - on my chinny-chin-chin Monday morning, so I wasn't taking any chances with those harmful UV rays. We took along everything from SPF 30 all the way up to 85+. Although, really? Is that fo'real?


Aside from our afore-mentioned chicken salad on both spinach and sun-dried tomato wraps (also already on hand), we had mango cubes (I'd searched for a YouTube video on cutting them perfectly:


and it was spot-freakin'-on. Worked like a charm, after many failed attempts on my part.)

Plus, I threw in a bunch of bagged cereal for snacks, and Sophia snuck in half a pound cake for good measure. We served everything on reusable napkins and wrappers, and a pitcher of fruit punch was served in regular ol' plastic kids' cups. Leave no trace, leave the place better than when you found it, and all that.


When Jack dropped a piece of his cereal, this duck walked boldly up to him and looked askance. Not in the "how dare you?!" sense of the word, but "how dare you not feed me?" sense. He stayed there, quacked a few times, and made Jack squirm and squeal a whole bunch. It was hilarious.


We really laughed out loud a moment later when the two ducks on the bottom and left waddled up in perfect unison, speeding zip-zip along the sand to get their pieces of the proverbial pie. They didn't get any from us, although I noticed Sophia "accidentally" dropped one or two their way. Soon a fourth joined the flock, and by then we were surrounded by Muscovies looking to join our Earth Day picnic. Fun times.


After lunch, I sent the kids off on a Nature Treasure Hunt geared for kids aged 8-11, which, hey, is perfect since that's what range my kids all fall into, hey? The first one (of ten) was: "Find a place where an animal made a home," so off they went toward the mangroves to find nests or burrows. The three quickly spotted deep, wide holes in the ground and decided something had dug its way in, and I couldn't argue with that, so I gave them credit.


The second one directed them to make fairy homes out of natural objects, so Sophie had the idea to make teepees out of dried-out palm leaves. Chloë and Jack quickly followed suit; all but Chloë got them to stand without being held.

3. Find a seed - Easy! They just had to look up at the big palm trees everywhere to find them hanging out like so many, um, testicles. (What can I say? It's where the mind automatically goes.)

4. Make a tool, like a hammer or drawing stick. Jack, not being terribly imaginative, picked up a stick and started drawing. Okay, fine. Sophia, surprisingly equally unimaginative, picked up a stick and started hammering the top of her fairy teepee. Okaaaay, Chloë? She picked up a stick and pretended it was a screwdriver, driving, er, screws into the dirt. Better, but totally uninspired. Still, we moved on.

5. Find or name two things that all living things need to survive. The kids shouted out things like, "A home!" "Air!" "Food!" "Water!" etc. This one was too easy for this age group, IMO.

6. Listen for five sounds, including both human ones and otherwise. They listened to birds singing, people shuffling their feet on a nearby path, folks talking, boats' engines starting up at the marina next to us, and the wind whispering through the trees. That last one was my favorite.

7. Find a place where a plant-eater would be happy. Again, in a national park, way too easy.


The eighth one was super-cute. They had to spy on a bug. Jack crouched down first and watched an ant go ten ways to Sunday, all over the sand. Sophia and Chloë traced their own insects, and soon they all met up, head-to-head, with their daddy. I was thinking he probably wished he had a magnifying glass to light 'em on fire, because that's just the kind of Bob he is, but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe.

9. Find a pattern in nature. They all came up with A-B-A-B-A-B patterns, so I challenged them to find something other than that. Jack was the first to do so; he found spirals projecting out from the center vein of a leaf, and I was proud.

10. Find something other than an animal that can live in water. First, they named about 3400 different animals before noticing us crossing our arms over our chest, tapping our feet and rolling our eyes all over the place. "Ohhhhh! Like seagrass?" Yeah. Duhhh.

We were done with that, and rather than do sunprints, they decided to go swimming again. Fine and good, but I was freezing and wasn't joining in. The lifeguard came over to speak at us about letting them go too far out without a parent right there (in zero waves, with a lifeguard spitting distance away, but whatevs), so Rob went in while I lay in the sun and fried a little more. My SPF 85+ was failing me, y'all! I reapplied.


Then, Rob rigged up his fishing poles and took us to go fishing. Well, took the kids, while I followed along for some Instagramography of whatever they caught (big fat nothin', it turned out). But check this sign - crocodiles?! In Florida? Gators, sure - we'd seen an 8-footer the last time out, in the canal near our house - but crocs? Who knew? Not I, not me, not us. Jack was determined to find one, but we didn't.

Also, I'm pretty sure they stole that croc drawing from Peter Pan.


Rob didn't have any bait, so he used a Sabiki Rig to try and catch some. He cast waaay far out, and then near, and then far again... but not even the pinfish were biting. So the kids and I went exploring while he kept trying.

We went up to the end of the walk, which culminated in, like, a pier, and looked out at the water. Another fisherman was next to us, so they meandered over to him to see what he was doing. "Fishing." What do you have on your hook? "Bait." He amused me. The kids kept pressing. My kids are pressers. So we learned this about him: He was originally from Ithaca, New York, now lived in Texas, and was here in Miami on temporary extra duty. He had never fished here before and insisted that pinfish couldn't be used to catch snapper, grouper, or larger fish, but Rob taught him how to rig the baitfish for better success (not that he was having any, but he had on previous outings, after all). He was fishing with live shrimp. I had about seventy-nine more facts about him on the tip of my brain, but they all just scattered because of course, I need them right now. Oh, and he gave Rob a beer. That was nice. Maybe it was a consolation prize, since neither man was having any luck with the fishies that day.


Rob gave up for a while, and just then, a manatee came into view, swimming toward the harbor. Another, smaller (I'm guessing female) sea cow swam toward him, and they met nose-to-nose for a few moments before the female turned, and they both swam away in the direction of the marina. It all happened too fast, just like with alligator the other day, for me to get a good picture, so all I have is this one of the four of them looking and pointing. It was SO breathtaking, Chloë was near tears, Sophia couldn't stop exclaiming, and my heart was racing. What wondrous things we've seen in our month here so far!


And then, if that weren't enough, a pelican flew in and landed near us. The kids thought that was just fantastic; they walked over and got in the big bird's face, not knowing how aggressive those things can be. They want fish, and they want it now. The pelican squawked, flapped its wings, and moved toward them. They yelped and jumped back, while I laughed. A third fishergent caught a pinfish - at last! - and threw it in the center of the pier. The kids gawked while the pelican stormed over there and gobbled it up. Only, the fish was spreading its rays, and the bird couldn't swallow it. We all watched, helpless, as it gagged and regurgitated the fish repeatedly, struggling to get it down its gullet with no success. What to do, what to do? Call a park ranger? Finally, with one loud gulp, the fish was choked down and bulging in the pelican's neck. Whew! What a relief.

We went home, exultant in our beautiful day, reliving all the amazing sights we'd seen.

Hope you all had a happy Earth Day, recycling and reusing and reducing. Remember to link up here if you're wordless - or not - today, too!




Oh, man. I am seriously out of practice with baking. Look at this disaster! It's entirely my fault - not saying it's not - but I started mixing up some recipes without having all the ingredients ahead of time. I had to run out to Walgreens - the only open store around here at 0630 on a Sunday morning - for baking powder. Only, they didn't have baking powder, so I bought the lone box of baking soda on the shelf and went home to text MIL (and use a Swagbucks search) to find out if I could make the substitution. Long story short: I could, but then I messed up the first batch of cookies.

Ya see, and I wish I'd taken a picture of the trainwreck (pun intended, as you'll soon see) that those were, I had bought a molded cookie baking stone from Pampered chef recently. I figured you baked the cookies IN the stone, and they'd fall right out. So I did. And they didn't. Um... so then I Swagbucks searched that, and it turns out you're only supposed to mold the cookies and then turn them out onto a cookie sheet to bake. Oh. Heh.

And then, when it came time to decorate the cookies that later did turn out, I ended up with this gooey mess for my improvised-because-I-had-no-confectioner's-sugar Royal Icing:


Drip, drip, drip... yeah, nothing stiff about those peaks. Sad, really, because I'd used up the entire rest of our bag of organic sugar to make it. (And Rob was mad, too, when he went to grab it for his coffee later. Sorry, honeybuns.)


Only then, I went into the pantry to get something else entirely, and look what was sitting right there on the shelf! Seriously, Melanie? I looked everywhere but the obvious place. Der. So I added in a ton of that stuff, and, well, then I had a new set of problems.


My peaks were entirely too stiff after that, probably because I'd previously dumped in the rest of my can of meringue powder to compensate for the loosey-goosey drippy mess I'd had on my hands. I had a hell of a time piping out these cookie outlines. Seriously, it took me about an hour and a half to do about 16 cookies. No joke. The icing kept stiffening up and getting stuck in my decorator tip, so I kept poking a piece of angel hair pasta up in there to loosen it. Only, half the time, the spaghetti would break inside, and then I had a new set of issues.

Little did I know, I was manic at the time from forgetting to take my pills last night. It took me another set of failures to figure that one out.


With the girls' help, I did manage to get the rest of the cookies decorated to their specifications, and they cake out, eh, oKAY but not terrific or anything. I didn't care by that point, though, because they were finished, and I was on to the next mistake.


I'd spied these Duff icing sheets on my baker's rack earlier in the morning and decided I'd better use them up before they went bad. I'd had them a while, after all. So I whipped up my own concoction for cupcakes and, whaddaya know, I neglected to put in the baking soda I'd gone out of my way to get for the morning's baking run. Smart me, eh? The result was a bunch of deflated (picture fallen soufflés) cupcakes as dense as bricks, yet still surprisingly tasty. Really tasty, at least.

And then, I ran out of decorator bags and had to use a poor substitute (for me, anyway): Ziploc bags. My own concoction of frosting didn't like those one bit, and while I was trying to pipe on "pretty" (heh) green edges at Jack's request - since these were to make up for his not really having a birthday this year, while we moved - the frosting all squeezed out of the bag around the hole for the decorator tip. So NOT pretty. Not at all.

But my mood had flip-flopped, and I was now spiraling downward after all these disappointments (unmedicated, I sling-shot pretty rapidly through the mania-depression cycles of Bipolar I Disorder). Everything was bad, horrible, terrible, no good, despite all the kids' protests that the cupcakes and cookies were perfect. Ha. You can see that they weren't. But at least I realized, finally, that I had forgotten to take those all-important medications and rushed to swallow some.


On the cooking front, I made a lemon-herb chicken in the crockpot, and all the rest of the fam said it was delicious. However, I was still in my downward slide, and to me it tasted terrible. Just awful. I even barfed it up about six times (unwanted, unwillingly, but it didn't sit well in mah belleh) to make my point.

So frustrated, I gave up and went to sleep. Restart, please, to the day!

And you? How was your Sunday?




Oh, man. I am seriously out of practice with baking. Look at this disaster! It's entirely my fault - not saying it's not - but I started mixing up some recipes without having all the ingredients ahead of time. I had to run out to Walgreens - the only open store around here at 0630 on a Sunday morning - for baking powder. Only, they didn't have baking powder, so I bought the lone box of baking soda on the shelf and went home to text MIL (and use a Swagbucks search) to find out if I could make the substitution. Long story short: I could, but then I messed up the first batch of cookies.

Ya see, and I wish I'd taken a picture of the trainwreck (pun intended, as you'll soon see) that those were, I had bought a molded cookie baking stone from Pampered chef recently. I figured you baked the cookies IN the stone, and they'd fall right out. So I did. And they didn't. Um... so then I Swagbucks searched that, and it turns out you're only supposed to mold the cookies and then turn them out onto a cookie sheet to bake. Oh. Heh.

And then, when it came time to decorate the cookies that later did turn out, I ended up with this gooey mess for my improvised-because-I-had-no-confectioner's-sugar Royal Icing:


Drip, drip, drip... yeah, nothing stiff about those peaks. Sad, really, because I'd used up the entire rest of our bag of organic sugar to make it. (And Rob was mad, too, when he went to grab it for his coffee later. Sorry, honeybuns.)


Only then, I went into the pantry to get something else entirely, and look what was sitting right there on the shelf! Seriously, Melanie? I looked everywhere but the obvious place. Der. So I added in a ton of that stuff, and, well, then I had a new set of problems.


My peaks were entirely too stiff after that, probably because I'd previously dumped in the rest of my can of meringue powder to compensate for the loosey-goosey drippy mess I'd had on my hands. I had a hell of a time piping out these cookie outlines. Seriously, it took me about an hour and a half to do about 16 cookies. No joke. The icing kept stiffening up and getting stuck in my decorator tip, so I kept poking a piece of angel hair pasta up in there to loosen it. Only, half the time, the spaghetti would break inside, and then I had a new set of issues.

Little did I know, I was manic at the time from forgetting to take my pills last night. It took me another set of failures to figure that one out.


With the girls' help, I did manage to get the rest of the cookies decorated to their specifications, and they cake out, eh, oKAY but not terrific or anything. I didn't care by that point, though, because they were finished, and I was on to the next mistake.


I'd spied these Duff icing sheets on my baker's rack earlier in the morning and decided I'd better use them up before they went bad. I'd had them a while, after all. So I whipped up my own concoction for cupcakes and, whaddaya know, I neglected to put in the baking soda I'd gone out of my way to get for the morning's baking run. Smart me, eh? The result was a bunch of deflated (picture fallen soufflés) cupcakes as dense as bricks, yet still surprisingly tasty. Really tasty, at least.

And then, I ran out of decorator bags and had to use a poor substitute (for me, anyway): Ziploc bags. My own concoction of frosting didn't like those one bit, and while I was trying to pipe on "pretty" (heh) green edges at Jack's request - since these were to make up for his not really having a birthday this year, while we moved - the frosting all squeezed out of the bag around the hole for the decorator tip. So NOT pretty. Not at all.

But my mood had flip-flopped, and I was now spiraling downward after all these disappointments (unmedicated, I sling-shot pretty rapidly through the mania-depression cycles of Bipolar I Disorder). Everything was bad, horrible, terrible, no good, despite all the kids' protests that the cupcakes and cookies were perfect. Ha. You can see that they weren't. But at least I realized, finally, that I had forgotten to take those all-important medications and rushed to swallow some.


On the cooking front, I made a lemon-herb chicken in the crockpot, and all the rest of the fam said it was delicious. However, I was still in my downward slide, and to me it tasted terrible. Just awful. I even barfed it up about six times (unwanted, unwillingly, but it didn't sit well in mah belleh) to make my point.

So frustrated, I gave up and went to sleep. Restart, please, to the day!

And you? How was your Sunday?


Sundays In My City: Food For Thought

Unknown Mami

Sundays in my City is hosted by Unknown Mami, to show pictures of everyone's neck of the woods all around the world. Link up here if you're joining in the fun!


The other day, we were near my alma mater, the University of Miami, in Coral Gables, FL. I had gone to the doctor and brought the whole family with me after the shenanigans it took to get the appointment, and afterward, we were starving. So we headed over to UM, which I adore visiting (partly because of the memories, sure, but also because it's such a beautiful campus), to get some grub. We couldn't find one of these glider thingies to sit in and eat our din, so at first, we sat on the steps in the center of campus to eat. Then one sweet girl, who was sitting there studying, shooed herself away to give us the spot. Gotta love nice folks. ^_^


The kids love to stand by Lake Osceola on campus, so before we left, they gathered to look at the ducks and fish. They found a drainage pipe (from sewage, I think?), around which the fish were swarming, so that was cause for many questions. I love how all of our outings lately have provided much homeschooling-on-the-go fodder!


We bought a new Crock-Pot set recently, with two take-along tubs for Rob to bring meals to school, and I was eager to try it out. I don't eat much meat, and definitely not mammals, so I didn't try this, but apparently it was delishimus! I made a pork butt roast (hehe) and put sweet onions in the pot, along with Worcestershire sauce and molasses bacon GrillMates seasoning from McCormick. It was fall-off-the-bone tender when finished, and both Rob and Jack (my big meat-eating boys) ate tons of it!


To the butt (giggle), I added baked potatoes and a baby greens salad with strawberry vinaigrette. Personally, I ate about half a potato, which is about par for the course. Everyone else? Gobbled.


Gratuitous cat picture: This is Pepper, my daughter Chloë's kitten, hanging out with Hubs, aka Rob. He is also known as Mr. Fluffypants, and you can see why!

Welp, remember to link up, and enjoy some other folks' pictures, too.


Sunday Stealing: The Unlucky 13 Meme

Okay, first off, I see that this meme is now hosted again by Bud Weiser, instead of Mr. Lance? What? Another shake-up, Mr. Lance is out and Bud is back? What's up with that? Now I ponder. Anywayyyy... let's get to the questions, shall we? ;)


2. If you could ask your favorite author one question about the book(s) they wrote, what would it be?

I'd ask Jodi Picoult why they let the movie folks fuck up the film version of My Sister's Keeper. I mean, really? I was so pissed when I left the theater! The book version, as usual, was way better, but really?! C'mon!

6. Who would you rather switch places with for a day: your favorite celebrity, or your favorite fictional character?


My favorite celebrity seems to really have his shit together and have a great, happy life, so I would definitely switch. All my favorite characters are, obviously, wonderful but also perfectly flawed people. Yeah. I'd pick Matt's life.

7. Who would you rather have point out a flaw that you weren't aware you had: a close personal friend, or a total stranger?


I agree with the picture! Really? I've had both happen to me, and both were painful. However, the friend is much more likely to let me know gently, so I'll go with that choice.

6. Do you get jealous easily? If so, what sorts of qualities or characteristics in other people are you most likely to be jealous of?


I used to be, a lot, as a kid. I was so jealous of my friends having other friends. But now? I'm really not. I am possessive, somewhat, yes, but I can handle the green-eyed monster now.

7. Which version of yourself would you rather have a conversation with: the one from ten years ago, or the one you turn into ten years from now?


That ^^^ is because I couldn't find a picture to go with talking to myself 10 years from or before now. Hee. Anyway, ten years ago, I was spiraling into the depths of my grief over losing Robby, our  living son Jack's identical twin, three days after they were born. I never thought I'd get over it. I'd like to go back and tell myself that I wouldn't ever get over it, true, but I'd get through it, and life was going to be so much better on other side. And I'd give myself a big damned hug.

8. Were you ever bullied in any way as a child? If so, how has it shaped you today?


I have, both online as an adult, and by some girl named Sue I'm-Probably-a-Piece-of-Trash-Now Gullo, in junior high. The childhood incidents taught me to stand up for myself and not take the crap from anybody. And I don't. Although, I do cry when I get angry, which is really pretty lame. I wish I could stop that.

9. What is one fear you would like to overcome in your lifetimeNofear

I'm afraid of speaking in public, because I hate all the attention being on me and am afraid of all the criticism I might generate. It's a huge hindrance, and I'd love to get over that.

10. What is one food you haven't tried yet that you would like to?


How much do I love the idea of getting my food in Thailand that way? That's one, but closer to home? I've never had rhubarb anything, and it intrigues me. I'd love to try strawberry rhubarb pie some day. I think I'll make some soon.

11. Is it easier to forgive someone for the wrong they've done you or to seek forgiveness from someone that you've wronged in any way?

What a good sentiment. I can hold a grudge with the best of 'em, and I apologize like nobody's business, so you do the math. I'm still working on forgiving. It's hard to let go.

12. Let’s go random: What did you do for New Year’s Eve for the turn of the millennium?


I think, like everybody else, I sat around and waited for my computer to malfunction. Thank goodness that didn't happen! I don't remember much else about the night.

13. What else around here have you noticed?


I noticed right from the get-go, man. Welcome back, dude, what's up?!


Welp, that's another round and another shake-up. Hope you've had fun, and if you comment, I promise I'll comment back this time. I know I've been sucky at that lately, but now that we're mostly settled in down here, I'm going to be better about that. Swears!


HURRY! Get $25 Off Registration To The Blog Workshop In May - Use By April 26th!


Check out that video; does this online blog conference, The Blog Workshop, not look great?!

Have you ever wanted to attend a bloggers' confererence but the need to travel and the cost made you unable to go? Well, I have good news for you! The Blog Workshop is online, so there are NO travel-related costs, and it saves lots of time for you. Plus, I have a coupon to save $25 off the cost of registration for the conference for you:


When you go to the The Blog Workshop Registration using this link, you can take $25 off the registration cost using code TBW25HURRY - but you have to hurry, because the code expires April 26th. Hurry and register here now!

Conference Agenda Chart

Look at the agenda! First thing you probably noticed was there are lots of giveaways, right? There will be prizes including video blogging equipment, LLC packages from LegalZoom, etc. So make sure to attend each of the 3 days, along with the Twitter party, Google+ hangout, and more. You'll find lots of information about growing your blog, monetizing, and much more.


Speakers image
There are lots of great speakers from plenty of wonderful internet/blog-related companies to help you take your blogs in the direction you want to go! All of this for only $175, or $150 if you use the code TBW25HURRY by April 26th; what a great deal for all that you get!

Any questions? Check out these FAQs for all the anwers you need. You can also tweet to @TheBlogWorkshop and use hashtag #TBW 'kay?

Have fun, and do let me know if you plan to register here!


Disclosure: All opinions and thoughts expressed in this post are solely the work of Smellyann, the author of Smellyann Strikes Again. While I did receive compensation in exchange for this post, the words typed here came out of my li'l ol' brain.

Saturday 9: I Don't Want To Talk About It


Link up here if you're playing along today! And check me out, on time for once!

1) Crazy Sam is beyond sick of all things Kardashian! What's a topic you're just tired of and don't want to talk about anymore?
Gun control. I'm sick of hearing about it and even sicker of talking about it. It's hard when I'm anti-violence and Hubs is a member of the NRA!

2) Rod Stewart has been recording for more than 40 years. Do you have any of his music on your iPod/mp3 player?

Nope, but I like him just fine.
3) Rod Stewart is known for his coif. How much time do you spend on your hair each

Maybe five minutes, these days, since I barely have any to mess with!
4) Rod's first child, a daughter, will turn 50 this year. His most recent child, also a daughter, is 2. How close in age are your children? If you don't have any children, how close in age are you and your siblings? If you don't have children OR siblings, well, tell us what's immediately to your left as you respond to this meme. If you don't have anything to your left ... Oh, hell, I give up!

My kids are pretty close in age. Chloë is older than the twins by 18 months. Then 25 months until Sophia. I'm just 17 months younger than my sister, so the age spread (or lack thereof) is 'normal' for me, whereas hubs, who is 7 years younger than his twin-sibs and 12 years older than his half-sister, would have liked them more spread out.
5) Which do you prefer -- french toast or pancakes?

Ooh, I lurve French toast!
6) When was the last time you lost your cool?

Yesterday! I'm bipolar and was out of my meds. I had a hell of a time getting them refilled, so I was in a desperate panic and had a total freak-out. I'm sick to death of being dependent on drugs for my sanity, man.
7) Crazy Sam once had a pet hamster she named Bart. Have you ever cared for a hamster or a gerbil?

No, but after 5th grade, I had a pet rat who I named Barkley. You know the dog from Sesame Street? My rat was the same colors.
8) Are you ticklish?

Does a bear shit in the woods?! My grandpa wasn't the slightest bit ticklish; I never gave up trying, though!
9) Ouch! You have a headache! What's your go-to remedy?
If I have my prescriptions for that, then I go that route if it's obviously not going to work with Tylenol. Otherwise, I take whatever I can get my hands on. I get them frequently, and they suck.
All right, peeps. I promise to visit and comment back this weekend, now that we've moved and things are settling down somewhat. I know I've been a jerky, lazy blogger lately about commenting back, so please forgive me!

And Chaos Reigns Again.


So finally, on Tuesday - three weeks after our much-anticipated arrival back in the state of Florida - our household goods were scheduled to be delivered from the movers. Not only had we not seen everything from the Portsmouth house in almost a month, but some of that stuff hadn't been seen by us in almost a year, having left it behind at our Virginia Beach house! To say we were all excited would be an extreme understatement.


 They were scheduled to arrive between 0800 and 0900. By 0730, all the kids were up and dressed, and three cats were in each bathroom for the day. By 0800, everyone was outside, listening for the truck. By 0900, when the truck still hadn't appeared, this was Rob, reading and anticipating. I went and, having barely slept the previous night, flung myself down on the floor to catch a little shut-eye. The kids ... I don't know. Remember, I was trying to nap?


At 0906, Rob flung open the bedroom door and shouted, "THEY'RE HERE!!!" and it was everybody up an' at 'em all at once, in 57 different directions. WOOHOO!!! As much as I've enjoyed my aching joints from sleeping on the hard tile floor in sleeping bags for the prior to weeks, I was not sad to see our belongings again!


The truck was pretty cool, all opening on the side and being filled with pods like that, but Ricky, Brian, and Emilio were even better. They earned every penny; they were the best team we've encountered in this relay race to get our household from one state to another.


As they took things out of the truck, Rob parked himself outside with a pen and clipboard, checking everything off the packing list, while I directed traffic to the proper rooms. By 1030 or 1100, Team Ricky were ready for a lunch break, so this was the halfway point. I thought, this much stuff I could handle. I knew we had another truckful, but I didn't realize that it was two FULL trucks' worth of stuff. Uh muh guh, we have a lot of crap!


We started unpacking while they were on their break, so that they could hall away some of the boxes and packing material. When I uncovered our box full of spicy goodness, Chloë exclaimed, "Yeah! Now we can cook with some flavor again!" Dude. I know. Buh-bye, bland.


For Round Two, Rob and I switched places. Good for him, because he needed a break from the sun, and good for me, because (a) I didn't know where to put our rapidly accumulating junk and (b) I needed a break from our ecstatic children. And this was the result. It may not look like waaaay too much stuff (or maybe it does?), but trust The Me, it is. We will be paring down our belongings considerably in the coming days and weeks. Freecycle, Craigslist, and eBay, here we come.


I immediately set to work getting the rest of (or most of) our kitchen sitchyated, while I sic'ed Rob on getting us a table and chairs. We had left our kitchen table behind in Virginia Beach, so it has made a very welcome reappearance in our lives. Here's our first meal at a real table in almost a year! Sophia was missing because she crashed, worn out, on the couch until right after dinner.


On Wednesday, Rob and the kids busied themselves with their respective rooms, whilst I went in search of a doctor to prescribe my meds. I'd run out Tuesday night, and long story short, I still don't have my freakin' drugs. It's going to be an interesting remainder of the week if I don't get some side-Effexor in my system - and soon.

So after I got home, tears and all, from the Emergency Department, I started dinner. The kids had been promised some muffins for breakfast, but I didn't get up in time to make them, so that was dessert. Sophie's extra pudge is already coming off thanks to all the walking and swimming an' sech we've been doing lately. Rob and I have a few extra pounds from eating moving crap on us, too, so we're pleased to be in a healthier eating groove now.


Meanwhile, Jack's almost finished with his room! Poopyhead. (There's a mommy word for ya!) That child has always had a determined, one-track mind, so when he gets an idea for doing something in his head (in this case, rebuilding his LEGO sets), nothing deters him from doing it. Nothing.


Unearthing cherished items - like all my JAFRA pampering goodness, above - has been delightful. We've already filled three boxes full of things to get rid of, too, which is also delightful. I want to live as minimalistic a lifestyle as our packratting selves can endure. I do not want to end up on an episode of "Hoarders," you guys. Not now, not ever!


The kids were so excited to find the Jell-O Easter egg molds, and I just so happened to unpack some boxes of Jell-O just before that, so this'll be their snack for tomorrow. They've been bugging me since the first batch about when they'll be finished... patience is not the strong suit of any of that lot! They kinda get that from me. Heh.

So anyway, that's what's new on our end. And yourselves??


P.S. Happy <<ahem>> belated birthday to my Twin-Laws, Mike & Gail, and happy 38th birthday to my sister, Stacey Jean! Love you guys!! ♥

Just Beachy


After I came home from applying for a job at Publix - I have to get it, I just have to - Rob asked me, "Do you have any plans for today?" I didn't, so he insisted that we needed to find somewhere to immerse ourselves in some water pronto. I knew just the place: Biscayne National Park, just 10 minutes away, right here in Homestead! I'd never actually been there, so I didn't know what to expect, but a quick visit to the website told me we would definitely be able to swim. Perfect!


We didn't just jump right into that wondrous lagoon you see the kids - and Rob, floating - in, there, oh no! Definitely not. I made them work for it. At the Visitor's Center, we found an artist's rendition of all kinds of Florida marine fish on the wall, so Rob and I (with the help of a volunteer on certain fish - hey, it's been 15 years since I graduated, and that's the kind of "use it or lose it" knowledge I haven't used much since then) schooled them about identifying them, certain features, even some scientific names I still remembered. I told them all about the red musculature of tuna and why they are that way, their habits and so on and so forth. I dropped all kinds of knowledge on them, so when we got to this beach, I told them they couldn't go swimming unless they could each tell me something they'd learned that day so far. Each one was able to describe something new right off the bat, so they were able to swim. Motivation will do that!


In the water, I taught them about comb and box jellies (the ctenophore phylum) versus true jellies (the cnidarians) when we came across a few of those. Then a remora came to visit me, and we learned about those. It didn't stay on me for long, nor Rob after that, but it looooved Sophia, who hadn't had a bath in a couple days! Ha! It didn't visit Chloë - who showered earlier in the day - or Jack - who bathed the night before - at all, so Sophia was the "shark" it decided it needed to clean. At first, she was a little freaked out, but when I assured her it wasn't going to hurt her and was taking care of her, she said, "Aw, what a cute little fishy," and tried to catch it, unsuccessfully.  I tried to find more critters, to no avail, so I switched tactics and told them what I could remember about the three kinds of seagrass found here. Which isn't much; I didn't remember much when I was actually in school to begin with, so we'll have to look that stuff up later!


The restaurant was closed for the day, but they had this signboard out front. I know Rob will take advantage of that when he gets his kayak and fishing poles back in a few short hours! How great is that deal, huh? I don't know if they'll actually clean the fish for ya, but $7.50 for your seafood dinner with two sides? Heck yeah, can't beat it!


Later, I took the kiddos over to the mangroves, where I explained that there were three kinds here: red, gray, and white. We learned lots more about the mangroves and what lives there (great hiding place for fish!), and I even let them lick a few leaves to taste the salt.


We went walking around the beach for a while, and the kids found this pretend-dig site. They immediately went to work scrounging for what Sophia thought, at first, were real fossils! She thought she was a "kid archaeologist" and was discovering something new. So hysterical. I love seeing the three of them explore, discover, and learn. It's so fresh and fun.


At that point, a huge storm cell rolled in, and the lifeguard announced that they were closing the beach. We hustled the kids into the shower, having heard lots of thunder and knowing the lightning wouldn't be far behind. They were super disappointed (as were we, gotta admit), but we assured them that it was close enough to home that we could come back soon, and often. That helped a bit.


On our way out of the park, we saw tons of vultures scavenging around, so of course we had a little discussion about those, too. Nasty little buzzards, but useful to the ecosystem, so hey.


I happened, at that time, to get a text alert from 7-Eleven informing me that new coupons were available in the app, so I checked and, what do you know? Free Slurpees for all! Of course, they wanted those bad boys, so I made them each tell me some new things they'd learned that day in order to get their treat. Jack and Chloë dropped knowledge on me right away, but Sophia, still disappointed, said, "I learned that the beach shuts down and you have to leave when there's a stom." Haha! Useful and important information, sure, but not what I had in mind. Try again, Toots. She came through for me, so rest assured, she got her Slurpee, too.

And now, I must get back to straightening up my room and the rest of the house, so the movers can bring all our goods into a clean place. Woohoo, can't wait - à tout à l'heure, folks!


Sundays In My City: Homebound In Homestead

Unknown Mami

It may be Monday, but no matter, because I'm always late. I'm linking up again with Unknown Mami and her posse on Sundays in my City, so come along as we explore what Team Odette did all last week when lack of gas - and funds - kept us around the ol' Homestead homestead. I promise to visit and comment back, too - though it may take me a month, I'll do it! Swears.


Cooking. Did I show these already? I forget. Sorry, if so. Anyway, I promised to take the load off Rob - and give Chloë something to tally on my side of her chart - so last week I made some seasoned vegetables for all of us and this:


pork steaks, for the rest of the family, 'cept me. (I don't do mammals. Somehow, some way, I'm going to become a full-on vegetarian again by the end of 2013, but it's hard when I have such high protein requirements, thanks to my gastric bypass surgery.)

We had no salt, no seasonings (the veggies came pre-seasoned, heh), and no fat, oil, lard, margarine, butter, you name it, you got it? So I quickly texted my former home-ec teacher of a mother-in-law, who suggested I cut the fat off the meat and render that first, then cook the meat in it. Brilliance! It worked like a charm. And even in that state, Rob pronounced it delicious and entirely edible enough to make again. Thanks, Mamacita!


That was Sunday. On Monday night, we came home from I-don't-know-where hungry, and I whipped up some healthy lettuce and chicken salad spinach wraps for Rob and me, while he made some pasta for the mouths under the kids' upturned noses. Poo-poo on them; the wraps were delishamus.


We've been walking every day still, and each day we encounter new flowers. This flower, on Tuesday, was the first yellow hibiscus I'd seen. It was the 29th anniversary of my mom's death that day, but I was determined not to cry. Guess what, I actually succeeded, thanks to my drugs I'm guessing.


Every day, we go down to the lake across from our place. Well, almost every day. Rob wants to fish here, but the sign says no way, José. I don't think he'll listen. And gators? No way can my kids walk down to the lake by themselves. I've already lost one kid; I'm not giving the rest away.


Some of the eggs have hatched! This mama Muscovy duck had 12 ducklings. Twelve! 


Chloë and sibs have been determined to spot a gator since we moved down here. Fortunately, they've been unsuccessful so far. I want to go down to the Everglades and rent an airboat. I've never done that before, and I know it's fun. Surely we'll spot some gators that way.


It took me a week, but I finally spotted an ibis. I was the last one. Why is this significant? The mascot of my alma mater, U-Miami, is Sebastian the Ibis, of course!


We have seen several instances of Muscovies mating, so we've had to explain, yet again, all about the birds and the bees to the kids. It's an ongoing conversation, and we have an Open Door policy where that is concerned, so it's cool. I found it interesting to note that the drake bites the female on the back of the neck while he's mounting her, much like a male shark bites a thickened part of flesh on the back of a female during their dance of looove.


And not to be outdone, this Mama Muscovy sported no less than 20 following ducklings that afternoon. Twenty!!


On Wednesday, the hibiscus turned out to be a beautiful pink rose. And not only that, but:


check out the gorgeous orchids on this tree! Real ones, too, no matter how fake they looked; I checked. We diverted from our usual path that day and walked to the next neighborhood over. I was bored to tears and dying for a change of scenery, after all.


Knitting. I've kept up my pledge to knit for the highly-allergic Vinnie, though I don't have much yarn with me until our stuff gets here on Tuesday from the movers. A little colorwork this time, using an unraveled coat I never finished making for Sophia four years ago, and some yarn of Stephanie's that was used in another project for her boys.


On Thursday, we decided to take the short walk up the road to get some free groceries with coupons I'd gotten. We stopped along the way to peer into the canal, where we spotted turtles, fish - and numerous shopping carts. Who throws a shopping cart into a canal, for Pete's sake?!


I was aMAZED at the Publix, where not only did I get my items for free, but the coupons scanned above the cost of the items, and I got overage. I figured they would just make me buy something additional to eat that up, but no! They totaled it out, opened up the cash drawer, and gave me the money! Hello, ring-a-ding-ding! That's so unusual, and I bet you dollars to donuts it's not the official coupon policy of the store, but arguing was useless with them. So I took it and clicked my heels together with glee. 


Sophia, wearing my straw hat from Miss Lisa, picked up what she called a blade of wheat and said, "Look, Mama, I'm a cowgirl!" Oh, the cute.


On our way back home, we spotted these palm trees full of coconuts. Except, on closer inspection, they weren't coconuts at all, I guess. I don't know what the hell they are, but ... palm fruit, I guess?


So this was my haul: A $6.59 bag of organic sugar, a $5.99 bottle of organic raw blue agave, two Michael Angelo's family-size meals, and a large Diet Coke from the deli - all of which, they paid me over a dollar to take home. Nice, huh?


I'm part of Michael Angelo's team of taste-and-tell bloggers, so they provided me with the coupons for the free products to try. We got the chicken parmesan and the vegetable lasagna, both of wish were SOOOO good. I kid you not. Have you had their frozen foods? I would definitely buy these again, but you know me, they gotta be on sale and have a coupon to match! ;)

Chloë Raine 011

One of Chloë's agents back in Virginia called Thursday to say they wanted to submit her for a lead role in a TV show! They said she was perfect for the part, and you know, I may be biased but, I wouldn't doubt it! The kid has charm and personality to spare. Look at that sass!

Chloë Raine 017

And she looks so much like her daddy, it's nonsense. Fingers crossed, Chloë!!


Friday was not my day. It was payday, yet my card kept getting declined every where I went. Turns out there was fraud on our account... I had to cancel about a dozen mystery shops for the weekend, along with a host of other plans. Big bummer. We had to hang around the 'hood even more. Here's silly Sophia dressing up as both her mom and her dad, simultaneously.


For the first time in January, while he was visiting my dad, Jack had a grapefruit. Surprisingly enough, my picky boy LOVED it with a heavy dose of sweetening, so he kept prodding his sisters to try one, too. (Neither Rob nor I are big fans of the fruit.)  So when we grocery shopped Friday morning - after, of course, having to call the bank yet again to release the hold on my card so I could pay for mah dang groceries - I bought them each one to try. What would they think? I wondered.


That was Sophia's reaction to her first bite. Ha! She cracks me up. So went Chloë's first bite, too. Needless to say, the grapefruit is now wrapped in Saran wrap in the fridge, since Jack only wanted a few bites. And yes, I sweeted it with that better-than-free organic sugar ;)


Meanwhile, on Saturday night after Rob made us omelets for dinner, Jacky helped out with the dishes. Since he is a Little Person, he needs to jump up on the counter in order to reach the faucet. I'm so proud of this kid; nothing holds him back from doing what he aims to do, despite his small stature!


And finally, since we're still more-or-less homebound, here is one last shot of "The Tweens," Cupcake and Muffin, acting as bookends over the kitchen sink. Pretty girls, they.

As always, thanks for stopping by! See you again real soon, y'hear?


Sophia Lorelei Turns The Big "8"!


On Saturday, our wee baby girl turned EIGHT freakin' YEARS OLD, guys. Can you believe it?! I can't. My baby. Is old. Which means I'm old. Gosh!

By the way, blue, because her favorite color is now blue. Gone are the days of all pink-and-purple  all the time. Le sigh.

Also by the way, because I'm thinking of it, she's the youngest kid, yet she's the biggest by quite a bit. Chloë is the size of a 6½-year-old and has the maturity to match, whilst Sophia's maturity matches her chronological age. It's quite an interesting dynamic, and by that I mean... frustrating entirely too often.

Anyway. Saturday, Sophia's birthday, was a beautiful day. Just gorgeous. And we had a blast. But first, there were the presents:


Grandma (Rob's mom) sent a jumprope, headbands, puzzles that got put together immediately by all three kiddos, and a doodling book that she's been working in for hours on end each day since it came;


Aunt Gail (Rob's sister), a new Scentsy consultant, sent her a Scentsy kitty which, as you can see, was met with much excitement; and, 


on Friday night, she not only got a card with money from her Grandpa (Rob's dad, along with his stepmom), but our realtor stopped by to take the lockbox off our front door and, upon learning it was Sophie's birthday, whipped a $20 bill out of her wallet and gave it to the extremely delighted child, amidst our protests! So we took her to Wally-World and let her have a little shopping spree. What fun that was! 


But back to Saturday, her special day... We were headed out to do a plethora of mystery shops that I'd lined up for the weekend, but the first one didn't pan out (and none of the rest 'cept one did, in the end), so we ended up in Miami's Bayside Marketplace. In all my years living in Miami the first time around, I'd never made it to Bayside, which turned out to be a feast for the eyes and ears. What a bizarre bazaar! I instantly loved it.


The kids meandered around for a while, looking at this and that, before they happened upon the family bikes for rent. We didn't get a chance to ride that day, but we've done it before and I'm sure we'll do it again one day. Or have we? I can't remember, now that I think of it, when we actually did, so maybe I just made that part up.


After that, Sophia got to ride in the carousel, choosing of course to sit in the spinny-thingy that she loves so much, for the mystery shop portion of our visit to Bayside. I'd have let the other kids go, too, but fundage is at a premium right now and I could only let one kid go. Being the birthday kid, choosing Sophie was a no-brainer.


She also got to ride the train, as part of my evaluation, but she didn't sit here for long, oh no, she didn't!


Instead, she climbed into the caboose (after determining that she wasn't allowed to ride in the engine car) and pretended she was a caged lion at the circus. Silly girl!!


The ticket seller gave me a free punching balloon for her birthday. I don't know about you, but I love a punching balloon, and I'm pretty damn good at it, too. Much better than these goons kids of mine, but Jack is getting to be the best of the bunch at it. Sophia and Chloë, er, not so good...


That ^^^ is what I had to do after the mystery shop portion of our visit. And so, I did. 


Since we were at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurant for me to GO, the kids were posing outside in Forrest's photo-op bench and shoes for Rob. Silliness.


Across from the restaurant was this enormous banyan tree, which is my second favorite kind of tree, I think, after palm trees. This one was about 100 years old, though they can live to be about 1,000 years. Did you know that when the branches reach down all the way into the ground, they grow into new roots of the tree? Isn't that amazing?!


Chloë had fun climbing up into the tree, and then Rob joined her. He climbed quite a bit higher, but not as high as he'd wanted to go before he got stuck with slick branches from the thunderstorm we'd gotten earlier that day. Indeed, the flooded roads are what stopped me from being able to get to my first mystery shop on time.


After climbing the banyan tree, we stopped at Häagen-Dazs to get ice cream for Sophia. Again, I couldn't afford to get treats for all three kids and still do my mystery shops (which I later ended up abandoning anyway), and I had a coupon for one small kid's cone, so Sophia got it. She did share with her brother and sister, but Jack ended up crying about the ice cream and made me feel like complete crap. He knows we don't have a ton of money and that the birthday kid is the one who gets somewhat spoiled on their day, just like he did, but it's still hard to understand and accept at 10 years old... so I told him and Chloë they could each spend a dollar or two on something at the market. Again, ::sigh::


Chloë was simpler, as usual, as she's relatively easy to please and Jack is impossible. She wanted her fortune told, so we spent her dollar on that. Sophia ended up getting her fortune read, too. Except it was funny, because Chloë hit the button for Spanish, and the fortune teller switched to Spanish for all of his mumbo-jumbo, of which I undertood not a word this time. Bah. 


Jack's tastes aren't cheap - everything he wants has wheels or is some mode of transportation or another, and he pointed out things that cost anywhere from ten bucks to $200! Um, no. I said a dollar, Jacky darling...


The girls were in heaven when we found this corner of a toy store decked out in Hello Kitty, well, everything! Sophia urged me to get the HK steering wheel, but I passed. Hee. I could just see me driving Penelope around with that on it, right?


In a shell shop, Sophia put a dried-out sea star on her ear and pretended to be a mermaid. That's another thing she loves - mermaids. She did look pretty with it there, I have to say.


Across the hall, we headed into the Brookstone store to see if there was anything (bahahaa) Jack wanted and could afford. I knew we wouldn't, but I humored the lad. We all found various massaging apparati that we all desperately wanted - and needed, you see, because we still don't have our household goods from the move and have been sleeping on tile floors for almost 2 weeks now. Talk about your aching bones!


Finally, we found a candy store - which is seriously the last thing Jack really needs - and he got some Pop Rocks and a push-up thingamajig to spend his buck-fitty on. Ah, well. Remind me to call a dentist tomorrow, m'kay?


Right after that, the kids were begging to go to the beach, which we'd promised this weekend, but first, Sophia had to dance to the salsa and merengue music playing outside by (I'm guessing) a local band. She stopped after I took this picture, came over to me, and whispered, "I'm kind of embarrassed, Mom. I don't know how to dance in public." So cute!


And then, there was a fountain as we made our way over to the merengue band, so of course I had to fish three pennies out of my satchel to let them each make a wish. Rob and I abstained for once, though we usually join in and toss a coin or two.


At the bandstand, there were plenty of listeners up front and center dancing to the music. Good times, good times, and no, I'm not near brave enough to have joined them. Not in a million years, though I like to listen and watch!


On our way over to the parking garage, Sophia spotted a man twisting up balloon animals. She ran over and told him it was her birthday, so he asked her to pick a color and tell him what she wanted. He didn't speak much English, so she just dove into his bucket of balloons and fished out a blue one, asking for a dog. He whipped it up in no time flat, then made the sign of the cross and wished her many blessings for her birthday. Nice.


A pretty smile and a blue poodle. A bloodle?


At last, we made it out to Key Biscayne. First stop was Diver's Paradise, the dive shop where I used to work back in the day, to visit "the Omars" who own it. Only, Omar Jr. wasn't there because his wife had just had a baby boy, and Omar Sr. wasn't there because of the awful diving weather earlier in the day. Bummer; it's a looooong, long drive out to Key Biscayne from Homestead, so I don't know when I'll get out there to see them again. I will, though - count on that - but probably not before we get a dive in on the other end of the Florida Keys.


Y por fin, we made it to la playa.  Those are my buried feet at the bottom of the picture; I'd have shown you my piggie toes, but my toenails aren't painted, and once, in college, a guy told me that girls' feet are ugly if the toenails aren't painted. Hee!


Sophia was the only one who'd kept her bathing suit on after (we thought) the thunderstorms altered our plans to go to the beach, so she plunged RIGHT in the water and had herself a birthday ball. That, right there, is a happy, happy 8-year-old.


Somewhere between the Sophie picture and this one, I'd dropped my iPhone and my keys into the water. Only, I didn't realize at the time about the keys, since I was so intent on rescuing my phone to get the next great picture. Hm. We'll revisit that later. See the muck behind Chloë, where Jack is? It was gooey and goopy, and she ran through it shouting, "EW! EW! EW! EW! EW!" in a very Chloë-like way.


Rob found this whorling shell - a mini conch, mayhaps? - in the low tidal zone, and thus began a collection between him and Sophia. They found many a cool shell that day.


And then, someone found a crab in the water, and all the Latinos ran screaming away, yelling (in Spanish) that it was poisonous and would kill them. I laughed and said it wouldn't, so my girl Sophia was the first one to dive back in and check out the crab. The Latino children kept running over, screaming, and running away, in a most amusing - albeit histrionic - way.


A while later, I managed to find this itty-bitty hermit crab walking in the shallows, so I gave the kids an on-the-spot lesson about the crabs, their unique anatomy, and how they make their living.


After that, Sophia hollered to me, "Look, Mom! I'm a water skipper!" and then she proceeded to run, splashing, across the top of the water like a little beetle. She's great fun, that kid.


Finally, Jack decided to brave the muck. He rolled up his pant legs, with Daddy's help, and made his way over to me. In this picture, he was telling me there was no WAY he could manage to stay in the muck and water...


...but pretty soon, realizing the fun that was to be had in the calm waters of Hobie Beach, he got over himself. I love, love, looove to see this boy have a good time.


And there's me, freckling up like a freckly frecklepuss. Check it out, I have hair again!


True to form, Sophia made a new friend. She does this absolutely everywhere she goes. The thing I loved most about this instance, though, was that Ana didn't speak a lick of Spanish, and yet Sophia still managed to pal around with her. They talked through me. Chloë and Soph asked a billion questions of Ana, and we learned that her favorite color is red, her favorite food is fried rice with eggs, she's 8 years old, and she has a pet bird.


Meanwhile, Rob was walking around, solo for the most part, on the far end of Hobie Beach. I loved watching him connect with nature and enjoy himself. I think he's home. At last, it's his turn to shine, and he will do it well, I know.


After a while, an ice cream truck sung out its offerings on the shore, and Ana dashed immediately over to her mother to ask for some helado. Naturally, so did my trio of hooligans. Remembering that Sophia had already had Häagen-Dazs that day, I threw sense to the wind and decided to make it right with Jack. So they all got ice cream. Though wouldn't you know it, three bites into his Spongebob sherbet, Jack decided his was too cold, and he didn't want it anymore. The little shit!


Sophia and her new amiguita, Ana, enjoying ice cream together wordlessly


After ice cream, Sophia apparently channeled Brookstone to give her sister and brother foot massages in the water. Jack was too squeamish to let her rub sand on his feet, though, so he ran squealing away as soon as I snapped this Instamography.


Not long after that, the sun was setting for the day, and, knowing our shark friends like to come closer to shore at that time of day, we rounded up our little'uns and started to head toward the sand. Satisfied, we were, that a full day was had, so no complaints ensued.


Sophia and Ana hugged good-bye, promising to see each other soon (though we have no way of reaching Ana). Somehow, these flowers materialized out of nowhere, and Ana gave them to Sophie, wishing her a very happy 8th birthday. Despite the ice cream stains and sand on her chin, I still think she looks beautiful here.


Immediately, Sophia decided to play "bride" and, turning around, threw the bouquet to her sister to catch. The flowers went all over the place, the girls went under water to catch them, and I had myself a good belly laugh. Hence the blur.


We got up to the arena, and Sophia dropped down to make sand angels. Of course! Who wouldn't want their wet and sand-covered birthday girl in their nice Honda Odyssey, ya know? I didn't care. It's such a messy Penelope right now, and I need to clean it out anyway...

Once we got back to Penny, I realized that I didn't have my keys. What? The doors were unlocked, too, so I scoured the front seat for them, to no avail. I sent Sophia back to where we'd left our shoes, but soon I realized that I had never put my keys down there in the first place. That's when I remembered dropping my phone. Just as a couple holding hands strolled by, I dashed down to the shallow water, and there were my keys, half-buried. I shouted, "I FOUND THEM!" to Sophia, and the male half of the couple exclaimed, "Wow! You were so lucky!" Indeed.


Sophia mentioned something about her birthday cake being the last thing she needed to make her day complete, and that's when I remembered that, oh yeah, I'd made no plans for a cake! Oops. We stopped halfway home at the Publix where I worked in college, and I chatted up Little Richard in the produce department while Sophia picked out some strawberries. My girl loves her some strawberries like nothin' else. She always tries to find the biggest one. Look at her! She's such a goose.


It was so big, she pretended she was a pig with an apple in her mouth. Jack wanted to cook her, but that's where I drew the line.  I know, I'm such a good mom.


The berries were super juicy, and I had absolutely NOTHING of my cake-making schtuff to work with, so I did the best I could. Sophia didn't care a wit. She said it was the most beautiful cake ever, and she loved it. Who could argue with that?


I had a bite, but it was one bite too many. On the other hand, Sophia has managed to sneak about 2/3 of the cake since last night, so I guess the chocolate cake-and-strawberry frosting combo (which Jack said tasted like Mentos gum) was too her liking. 

And that, my friends, is how you do a birthday 'round these parts.

Thanks for stopping by our little corner of the blahgisphere. Hope you'll stick around.




Double Header: Saturday 9 & Sunday Stealing

What's up, guys? I haven't posted this week because our innernet connection sucks big time, and I'm STILL trying to find a service provider for our area, which is not awesome. I'm sitting at McDonald's to boost off their free wi-fi at the mo', and I plan to do a buncha posts back-to-back while I'm here. Check 'em out, will ya? And for the love, please comment if ya read 'em. All week I've gotten tons of spam comments, and it's getting wearisome. Spanx! ;)

Saturday 9: You Belong With Me


1) Like the girl in this song, have you ever been in love with someone but afraid to tell them?

Yeah, but I did eventually - and it turned out to be mutual, when the object my affection finally responded. This turned out to be disastrous to our formerly-awesome friendship. Bah.

2) Taylor Swift has been known to write songs about her real-life lovers. If you were to write a song about the most recent person you were romantically involved with, what would the title be?
Welp, it'd have to be about my husband, and it would be the sub-tagline of this-here blahg: "On Our Wavelength," which is also close to what I had engraved on his wedding ring. ♥

3) Ms. Swift recently turned 23 and has already won VMAs and AMAs and Grammys. What were you doing when you were 23? (If you aren't 23 yet, where do you see yourself when you hit it?)
I lived in Tampa and was working on my Ph.D in elasmobranch ecomorphology {Translation: shark feeding behavior and the related anatomy}. I no longer work in that field, except, it appears, when we're at the beach and I'm trying to drop knowledge on my homeschooled children, who keep insisting I should go back to working as a marine biologist. Ahh, that was a lifetime ago, children...

4) When you were a child, did you sleep with a plush toy? (If yes, please include its name in your answer.)
Of course I did - and I still do! The childhood toy was a red-and-white puppy with holly berries on one ear; its name was Snowflake. Now, it's the giant teddy bear Hubs gave me when he proposed. His less-romantic name is "Xavier, the X-rated Bear." Yeah. True story.

5) I'm making a Starbucks run. What can I get you?
I'll take a low-fat, sugar-free caramel frappuccino, por favor.

6) It was 60 years ago that Clarence Birdseye first marketed frozen vegetables. Now it's your turn: Share something you learned recently.

Yesterday, I learned how to get to downtown Miami from Homestead (hint: do NOT take US-1 unless you want to sit in traffic for 2½ hours; take the Turnpike instead!) and then from there, how to get to Key Biscayne. Not fascinating, perhaps, but a beautiful journey just the same...

7) In junior high, were you class clown, teacher's pet, a geek, a jock ... or did you just melt into the background?

I was a nerd, the teacher's pet, natch.  I was not a very popular girl!

8) Was your most recent ticket for parking illegally or was it a moving violation?
 A moving violation, from a November micro-accident. The copper wrote me up for reckless driving, a total crock of shit that I got thrown out of court. Whew! Also, as I was leaving the courtroom, I heard the judge reaming the officer for the ridiculous ticket. Heh, heh. 

9) Tell us about the last museum you visited.

That would be Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum, with  my kidoodles, in Williamsburg, VA. It was an assignment for my side job, but it was fu-u-u-un! We had a blast there. If you get the chance, you should totally go. Worth the trip, I promise (unless you have something up your butt and are the uptight type who doesn't like silliness and shenaniganizing.)

1. What is the strangest thing you have ever eaten in public? 

Both on cruises I've taken to the Caribbean, it would have to be either the frog legs or the escargot. I mean, I haven't tried monkey brains or goat testicles, so my options here are a bit limited, y'know?
2. If you had to go on an adventure, with elves, dwarves, or hobbits, who would you take and why? 

Uhhh... this question is so ridiculous, I shan't deign to answer it. Sorry. Wait! Wait a minute! Dwarves are real, aka Little People. My own son is a dwarf. So I'm slightly offended now. Humph.
3. You are at a rural retreat lodge somewhere deep in Wisconsin or Canada. You are approached by a taxidermist who hands you a stuffed badger and asks you to put it in your lap. What do you do next? 

All I can think of is to ask, "Why?!" which, I know, is exactly what I would really do.
4. If you were given biscotti, would you prefer it with coffee, tea, or hot chocolate? 

I officially hate this meme almost as much as I hate biscotti. I mean, cookies are not supposed to be that freakin' hard!
5. In your opinion, who is the funniest man or woman alive today?

Oh, gosh. I don't know! Ellen DeGeneres has to be right up there, though. She cracks my arse up every single time I see her. Oh, and Steven Wright is one funny dude. We saw his show once. It was fantastic! 
6. If you were given thirty seconds on television to say something, what would it be? 

I could not possibly sum up the brain diarrhea that I would want to share in half a minute, yet I guarantee you I'd be imploring you to recycle at some point in my li'l ol' message.
7. What is your idea of the most romantic date setting ever? 

When my husband and I got married on the beach at sunset, that was pretty romantic. I couldn't have thought of a way to beat that until Sunday night, when we were at the beach at sunset, and there was suddenly a huge group of people descending on the beach. All of them were wearing white from head to toe, and they were walking INTO THE WATER to watch the bride and groom, who happened to be Jewish (judging by the Israeli flag someone carried), get married. And there were horns playing and oh, my God, it was so damn cool. And yes, romantic.
8. If you could go on one date with a movie or television star, who would it be and why? 

I have a silly crush on Matt Damon, because he's so cute with those crinkly eyes and crooked smile. And talented, to boot. That's why, so there.
9. What is the worst song you have ever heard? 

That stupid werewolf song by (I think) Warren Zevon, or anything sung by Stevie Nicks, who sounds like a wounded goat. Seriously, I can't stand her voice. Ugh.
10. If you could live anywhere else, where would it be? 

Dudes, we just moved to paradise, aka Homestead, Florida. I thank God every day for this beautiful life we're now living. I love it HERE!
11. Who - in your opinion - was the greatest person to ever live?
I'm not at liberty to say. Okay, okay... aside from Jesus, it'd have to be someone like Mohatma Ghandi, Mother Theresa, or whoever thought up milk chocolate. Fo'realz.
All right, I guess that wasn't too bad after all. I'll be back momentarily with more loveliness from our new paradise home, so come back and comment, will ya? I mean, the spam is ridick today!


Sundays In My City: Neighborhood Walks

Unknown Mami

For a long time now, I've been reading Sundays in My City posts by Mrs. 4444 over at Half Past Kissin' Time. I love them; they're a great way to be introduced to a town I've never visited. I've never posted before, but now that I'm in a new-again city (Miami, for those of you who haven't hung on every word I've written in the past four or five months - what what what?!), I plan to participate on a regular basis. Thanks, Unknown Mami, for hosting us! {And if you want to read more SiMC posts, click on the badge at the top of this post.}


This post will be about our walks exploring around our new neighborhood, since I don't know much about Homestead and since we're trying to conserve gas right now, too. This is Chloë, 11½ - our oldest hija. I love her pool get-up, since the ultimate goal for yesterday was to find the neighborhood clubhouse and pool/playground. The hat is from my new close friend, Miss Lisa (not to be confused with my BFF, Dr. Lisa), and the rest of the outfit is from her own collection, aka her closet. ;P


Since we left snow and cold weather back in Virginia (I have to stop myself from continually saying "back home," since this is home now) and have sun and mid-80º weather here, the flowers are everywhere and really striking. Especially the hibiscus. I'll show several more in this post, but these bright orange blooms are my favorite. After the color of the sea, orange and green are my favorite colors, too. Love.


Sophia, who will be 8 on Saturday and our younger hija, loves to tuck them behind her ear. 


I call these "palm carcasses," and they're everywhere. You really have to watch out for them; they're not a soft landing spot if you trip over one.


The kids were really bummed out to learn that the pool and playground were unavailable during renovations over the next couple of weeks, but I tried to lift their spirits by telling them that at least it had been closed since Wednesday, meaning both the fortnight was already a quarter over and that we hadn't wasted four days not going to the pool when it wasn't open anyway, but guess what? That didn't help. Not a bit. So we hung out in the gazebo and planned future picnics in what some graffito had described  as "the chill spot."


Afterward, we headed across the street to one of many lakes in the area. The kids wanted to look for gators, but really, I'm about 99% certain they won't find them in this lake. You can never be too careful, though, so we didn't take our eyes off them for a second! That's Jack, 10, on the right, with his hermanas.


Just before I took this picture of Rob and Jack, they were sitting exactly the same way. Then, of course, Jack moved. I still like the picture, though, maybe because Jack rarely lets me photograph him. He's pretty camera-shy.


Sophia having fun with sunscreen! She's such a goose. I love her pudgy little still-babyish legs...


When we headed back home, we encountered this ol' girl wandering around unclaimed. I got ahold of her and found a collar but no tags. We named her Cousin Itt, because we weren't sure if she were a he at first, and she was quite hairy. She was sweet and docile, blind (at least partially) in both eyes, and unkempt. We couldn't find an owner in sight, so Rob whipped his drawstring out of his shorts for a makeshift leash, and we took her home to call Animal Control. (He's a handy one, that guy.)


Cousin Itt paced around our backyard for a while, drank a lot of water and ate a little food, and then she settled in for what we thought was the weekend. Rob put up a tarp for her in case it rained (our six cats and our lease all said we couldn't keep her inside), since Animal Control doesn't work weekends. Alas, she started barking and wouldn't stop no matter how much I tried to calm her. We had to cut her loose before we got in trouble. She loped off in the direction in which she came, and we surmised that maybe an owner was missing her after all. We hoped. She didn't have many days left, we thought.


I can count on one hand the number of times I cooked dinner at the crappy Portsmouth house, because we had barely any cookware and the kitchen suuuucked. Well, to give Rob a break, to prove to the kids that Mommy really can cook, and because I actually do enjoy it, I plan to change that now that we have a decent place in which to do it! Chloë is so amazed, she's keeping a chart of who cooks when. So far it's Mom 3, Dad 1 (tonight, when I still suggested the breakfast-for-dinner menu of eggs, waffles, and sausage); little does Chloë know, I plan to use it to teach her many things about charting, mean/median/mode, and so forth! Anyway, last night's dinner was Shrimp Scampi a la Farfallini for Rob and me, plain farfalle for Jack, and farfalle with sauce for the girls. I don't like to cater like that normally, but we had the ingredients to please everyone and I really don't like to battle over food.


And for dessert, we had Granny Smith slices with peanut butter. Sophia tends toward the chubby side, and after several weeks with junky food and lack of activity, it had started to show enough to concern me. We're switching back to eating healthfully much more of the time. And guess what? No complaints about it at all. Whew.


After dinner, while I was cleaning up the kitchen, Sophie surprised me with a pretty bouquet of flowers. We don't have all our household goods yet, so I had to use Jack's Cars cup. Suits me just fine!


Today, while Rob stayed home with Sophia while she bathed, the Bigs and I took a walk around the more immediate neighborhood of ours. This is the view to the left, as we stepped outside our door. Steph requested more pictures of the scenery, so I obliged her today with my constant Instagramming iphoneography.


Today's hibiscus is brought to you by the color pink!


Behind the next set of buildings is another lake, and all around the apartments there were oodles of clutches of duck eggs. So cool. The kids loved finding those!


We even found a mama Muscovy protecting her unhatched brood. What a neat find that was! (I'm sure she loved me peering in so closely at her, but, y'know. I'm a scientist, so it's okay, and I told her that.)


We even found a weeks-old duckling wandering about, unparented. He didn't like me chasing him down for the picture, either, and some drakes in the area got pretty nervous about it, too. They didn't listen to my whole scientist spiel, so we left 'em alone after that.


Just before I took this picture of the kids, Chloë breathed, "It's beautiful here." I agree. I mean, how could you not be happy? I'm enthralled with it all.


On the sunny side of the complex, we find gigantical hibiscus blooms, as big as my hand! Holy moly! (I mean, I do have small hands and all, but those are some big fleurs. Yeah, some French, too. What? We have Haitians too, y'know.)


Earlier on a walk, Rob and the kids spotted an ibis. (UM's mascot; hello, Sebastian) I missed out on that and got doves instead. Glorified pigeons. Harumph. Oh, well. All God's creatures.


See that little structure, way in the back, there? That's Mailbox Central. We don't use it. We don't get our mail yet. We have a box, and we have a PO Box, too, but so far they're just for show. Le sigh. I'm expecting an enormous parcel of mail whenever it eventually catches up with us!


Some more hibiscus. I like the pretty color, but I don't like the shrively varietal as much as the flatter kind.


Five kittens were under one staircase, looking for food, on the non-lake side of the complex. They were so adorable, Chloë actually cried. She emotes well; no wonder she's an actress. And no, we're not taking any more cats into this house!


So that's our neighborhood. Welcome, y'all! I mean, you guys. I need to stop that y'all business now that I'm out of Virginia, right? (I probably won't. I mean, it is pretty useful for those lazy typing and speech times...)


Oh, Sophia didn't want you to forget about her, so one last appearance from her. Wait, something nicer, please, huh?


Such silliness. I guess not! Hee.

Thanks for stopping by, and have a great week, y'all. Er, uh, yeah.


P.S. Lest you think we're on a permanent break from homeschooling, just because we don't have all our school stuff, doesn't mean we're not doing it. I've gotten in lots of unconventional teaching, including the aforementioned math lessons, cooking lessons, lessons about plants (parts of a flower not the least of them), lots of reading, and so on. It's happening. Trust.

The Ultimate Blog Party 2013! #UBP13

Ultimate Blog Party 2013
It's here, y'all! The 2013 Ultimate Blog Party, sponsored by 5 Minutes For Mom! Woot, woot! And, I'm giving away an awesome prize:
Jafra Melanie
A $100 Gift Certificate to shop through my personal JAFRA website - anything you want, shipped free (US only, please)! You can choose from state-of-the-art skin care, cosmetics, baby or toddler care, tween or teen care, men's care, spa products, and much, much more. Go look and tell me what you'd love to win!
Of course, I do want to introduce myself to those of you stopping by for the first time. My nickname is Smellyann. My real name is Melanie (Ann), and my dad always called me "Mellie Ann," but my fun older sister switched it to Smellyann in middle school. That rat! I loved it, though, and owned it. Haha!

I am the wife of Rob, on the verge of retiring from 20 years of service in the US Navy. I am mama to Chloë, 11½, Jack, 10, Sophia, almost-8, and Robby, our angel-baby and Jack's identical twin. We're also cohabiting with six cats, five of whom think they're dogs in that they're not remotely aloof and who run to greet new visitors instead of hiding like they're supposed to do! We recently moved to Miami from Virginia Beach, so Rob could go to college here after his retirement. I went to college here as well, and I loved living here, so this has been both a new adventure and a reliving of some great times for me in the past couple of weeks.

As you can see on the right, in the category cloud, I cover a wide range of family-related topics. I started this "blahg" in 2007 as a way to keep our far-flung family and friends connected with our ongoing adventures in traveling, homeschooling, military life, organic living and gardening, my mystery shopping and crafting, and so on and so forth. I also cover my struggles dealing with bipolar disorder, family and parenting conflicts, a daughter who is undersized (but strikingly gorgeous, IMNSHO, and who acts and models fairly regularly), a son who is diagnosed with pituitary dwarfism and, as a 31-week preemie, several delays, and a very active (some would say hyperactive, but I don't), brilliant, right-brained youngest babe.

I hope you'll stick around, comment (I LOOOOOVE comments!), and leave me with a link to visit you as well. You'll find some meme posts on the weekends, peppered with the occasional giveaways, but mostly your run of the mill "we're cray-cray and we love it" daily life posts. 
Sit back, grab a cuppa Joe, and tell me where to find more about you - after you read a few posts, natch.

I love that you stopped by! Thanks!

Ultimate Blog Party 2013
Oh! And a few more bits of business about the 2013 Ultimate Blog Party, duh me: 

*~* There will be live events, including a Twitter Party and a Google+ Hangout, this week.

*~* There will be PRIZES! Over $20,000 in prizes, in fact. Check 'em out and then fill out the prize form.
*~* Link your blog up to the UBP post here, if you want the chance to win more prizes. Make sure you get a badge!
*~* Visit old friends and make new ones on blogs, Twitter, and Facebook from the Linky lists!
*~* It all ends on April 13, 2013 at 11:59 PM (hey, so does my Sophia's 8th birthday), so get started now!
Have a great time. Don't forget your party hat!

This Week In Pictures


April 2013 009

When last we left off here, it was Easter Sunday, so that's where I'll pick up. The kitty pictures in the last post were from then, too.  In the top of the pool picture, here, is Sophia swimming.  Whenever she has gotten in the pool here in Florida, she starts doing what we've termed the "Sophie Paddle" right away. She can do strokes that are more akin to real swimming, too, but she much prefers the Sophie Paddle. I was the same way, doggie paddlin' to and fro until I was forced into doing real strokes.

April 2013 011

In the top pic, I was on our 4th floor balcony looking down, on my way to visit the kiddos and Rob at the pool. He'd been doing that, whilst I pounded the internetty pavements looking for a place for us to live. Jacky was freezing when I arrived, so I collected him and headed back to our hotel room. We stopped at the fountain near the elevator for him to take a closer look; all three of my kids are suckers for fountains, like their mama!


April 2013 013

On Monday, sick of eating whatever we could get nearby in the way of fast food, we decided to go get groceries and do some more looking around. We headed up north to Coral Gables and South Miami, where I did a restaurant mystery shop and then to Publix in the 'Gables, where I used to work in my college days. Anyway, before we left, I gave Sophia her birthday present: a pair of "Chameleon" Crocs (they change color when wet) and a bunch of Hello Kitty Jibbitz. They had Hello Kitty Crocs, too, but none small enough for her feet. It's just as well; the Jibbitz are more visible on these!

The edges of the Chameleons are what change color, so when we encountered a post-rainshower puddle later at the hotel, she walked on the outside edges of her feet to get them to change colors! It was so funny, and terribly Sophia-y of her. I had a photo of it, but it seems to have disappeared, and I'm too lazy to go copy it from Facebook at the moment. (I'm Instagramming all my photos like crazy now, since I have no camera and just the iPhone 5. Woohoo for iPhone 5's awesome camera focus!)

April 2013 019

Before we headed into Publix, we ventured into the park to play while there was still sunlight. It's directly across from the store. New since I worked there are these exercise equipment pieces like bikes, bars, and more. Awesome additions, IMO! Chloë tried the bike first.

April 2013 021

This picture makes me giggle. After Chloë dismounted, Jack climbed up, but lo and behold, he's too short for the pedals. Heehee! Nothing stops my boy from doing what he wants!

April 2013 023

I wish I could've gotten a picture of Sophia climbing up on this thing in her usual gymnastic way, but no, she was too fast. She swung upside down, hooked her legs around, and only then pulled up the rest of her body. Typical.

April 2013 017

Just as the sun was going down, sans flash, I snapped this shot of Sophia squatting on a nearby machine. She's not wearing the Crocs, though. Weird. I know it was the same day...? She must have had them in the car and switched. Goof.

April 2013 025

My kids always gravitate toward the lobster tank in whatever grocery store they visit. Each time is like the first time; they're always so amazed. Future marine biologists??

What amazed me: I looked around to see if any of my old coworkers were there. Lo and behold, Richy Rich was still there, working in the Produce department. And he remembered me! He remembered my old traits, too, as he laughed with Rob about how fast I jibber-jabber away... he helped me pick out some fresh produce and even some cheese, when I couldn't decide what to pair with our loaf of Cuban bread. He wanted me to take a round of Brie, but I went for a cheaper ball of fresh mozz, in case you're interested. And it was delish!

April 2013 027

In the end, we feasted on fresh fruits, including apples, oranges, mango, and more, and veggies, including the teensiest "baby" carrots I've ever seen. We had shrimp with spicy cocktail sauce, Babybel and mozzarella cheeses with our Cuban bread, and strawberries and watermelon. The kids drank milk, while we sipped Asti Spumante. There's still some in the refrigerator; I wonder if it's any good... And we garnished it all with this giant aloe, uh, sprig. What do you call a piece of aloe, anyway?


April 2013 034

Having discovered sometime on Monday that there was no way we could afford to pay both for a hotel room and a security deposit on a place to live, and having just forked over a week's worth of hotel rent for a second place closer to where I was sure we'd end up, I really started scouring the 'net in earnest for a place. I posted an ad myself on Craigslist, and then started being very selective in the ads to which I responded with a message stating that we were a military family - guaranteed income! and the terms we needed. Only a couple people responded, and I made an appointment for 5:00 PM that evening for the one I liked best. The realtor met us there at 5 on the dot, and let us in. Rob liked it okay, and for me it was love at first sight. She strung us along as she filled out the application for us, and then she turned around, with the keys in her hand, and said she was going to trust us with "her" house and just had a good feeling about us. Then she handed me the keys, and I paid her the first month's rent. WE WERE IN LIKE FLYNN! WOOHOO!!!! A place to live, at last. It's in Homestead, Florida, in a beautiful neighborhood, close to US 1 and the Florida Turnpike and a host of great shops and stores. Awesome!

April 2013 036

Here are the kids celebrating in our gorgeous black-and-white kitchen!

♪ ♫ Celebrate good times, come on! ♫ ♪

April 2013 038

Our new master bedroom, ...

April 2013 040

...and the master bath.

April 2013 042

When Rob came back from the hotel room where he was recollecting our paid monies, he celebrated first with Chloë whilst I snapped this picture. I LOVE this photo! I look at it all the time. Even though my current laptop screen distorts the picture, it looks beautiful to me. ♥

April 2013 044

The kiddos standing in front of our new home

April 2013 046

And the view of the neighbors' building across the parking lot from ours, which looks just the same except more yellow.


No pictures from this day. I woke up at 0200 and started working on a grocery list, as we had very little left to eat and I did not want to spend our dollars on junk. I was able to get SOOOO much food at the Publix down the road, for not terribly much moolah, using deals and coupons. I love that store. And that one store in particular. It was clean and spacious, and every single person there that I encountered smiled, greeted at me, and generally passed my 'mystery shopper extraordinaire' tests. They all really seemed to enjoy their jobs. I think I'll put an application in there, having realized we're both going to have to work if we're going to be able to afford to live here!

After groceries, I took a nap. It was noon by then, and I was tired. Afterward, we went to Wags and CVS to get some more deals, since I'd worked on coupons for there, too. And we went waaaaay the hell out to the realtor's office to finish our HOA application. They required so much, and since we had already moved in the night before, the only reason I can think of was to get an extra $100 application fee out of us. Ah, well. Everywhere around here requires it, so there's no use trying to get out of that.



I had taken three or four mystery shops for this day, so we set off in the afternoon to take care of those. We aren't allowed to use the pool or playground until the HOA approves us, so when home, we've just been hanging out and putting what little we have away. And cleaning. We have been cleaning pretty much nonstop, since it rains every day and we have tile floors. After I finished two of the mystery shops, it looked like rain, so we headed to an indoor-outdoor mall just to walk around. It ended up only raining three small droplets, but on the plus side, we discovered we were in exactly the right place for my last shop of the day! The first shop we came across was It's Sugar, a mega-huge candy store.


Rob picked up this huge 5-lb jawbreaker. Can you imagine? How would you eat that?!


Sophia found this mondo wall of Peeps and stuffed Peeps toys. This picture only shows a small fraction of what was there. It was cray-cray!


We found so many humongo things in this store. It was ridick! This picture made an impression on my Facebook friends, too. It got tons of 'likes' and comments throughout the evening. Can you see why? Look at that stuff! It was a real-life Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs in there!


After we finished up at the sugar shack, we headed across the way to the Disney Store. I asked the guy about pricing for military families, since we plan to head up there and do that thang sometime during our existence here, but he had no clue. Then he gave the girls some coloring pages and crayons to color with, while I watched and the boys browsed. We had no intentions of buying things, and we didn't, since I'd barely brought enough money to do my shops.


Jack was so cute with these Wreck-It Ralph gloves. We'd just gotten the DVD in the mail before we left Virginia, from Amazon or something, so the kids watched it several times on the way down here and are now in love with the flick. He was all over the WIR display there. I love this face on him!


After the Disney Store, we meandered into Barnes & Noble to poke around. I remembered we needed to get Rob a study guide for the SAT, which he needs to get into his planned nursing course of study here at Florida International University. I found one and hoped they would give me my teacher's discount, but of course I didn't have any kind of ID they would use, and my ID in their system had expired several years ago. So... they refused. Bummer! But I was still able to get Rob the book, and now mah boy is gittin' ready for college!


I had a few quarters in my satchel, so we walked over to this carousel to let the kiddos take a spin. Only, when I put the quarters in and pressed "Start," the music started but the ride did not. I pressed "Start" a million times to no avail. Finally, I gave the ride a push in the right direction, and it went. Boom! Ta-da!


One fish for each kid - how convenient!


It's hard to see in this picture, but underneath the fish, behind that wall, was a sheer wall of water that the kids wanted to plunge into right away. Sophia would have if we'd blinked, too, I bet.


Daddy spinning Chloë, after spinning her younger brother and sister... we were all pretty wound up by that point!


I simply adore this photo of Sophia dipping her hand in yet another fountain, after the sun had gone down for the night.


Posing with my mini-me


I have absolutely nothing to say about this picture, other than we liked the structure behind them and we found another Johnny Rockets right next to it. Our new favorite restaurant... well, for that night. One of many, really.


Finally, Rob and the Bigs sat in the van in the parking garage watching another DVD - this time Frankenweenie, which we had also just gotten delivered from Amazon to the hotel room before we left it - while Sophia and I did the last mystery shop of the night. After buying Rob's SAT study guide, I didn't have enough money for all of us to do the shop, so I took Sophie since (a) she wanted it most, and (b) this is her birthday month. Made her happy!

After that, we headed home - home!! - and I got wicked dizzy, not for the first time. I realized it stopped when we were at a light, and at the gas station filling up - and started up again when I drove. It worsened when I accelerated. So now we need to figure that out and take care of yet another Melanie issue.


No pictures again from this day. I spent Thursday night through Saturday morning in "bed," such as it is (which consists of sleeping bags on the hard tile floor, yech), suffering from caffeine-withdrawal headaches and over-tiredness. So was Friday. Rob and the kids didn't do much other than finally go get the electric and water turned on in our name, now that we had the lease in our hands. We prayed and prayed, since we didn't have the money until payday, and God answered our prayers: they waived the security deposit since he was in the military, and put the $40-some connection fee toward the first bill. Hallelujah! Now if we could just find a ladder to borrow to put the new batteries we bought in the forever-chirping smoke detectors!

Well, I'm going to cut off here, 'cause I'm getting kinda tired and that means you're probably getting tired of reading! I'll post more later or tomorrow. Cheers to all!


It's Raining Cats & Dogs

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I haven't kept up with the posts as often as I'd have liked, because the internet connection has been spotty at best. I can't wait until we have our own service set up! Anyway, here are Ginger (right) and Pepper stealing my pizza. These are the two kittens we rescued around Halloween 2012; they are Sophia and Chloë's babies. They are also piggies, especially the formerly-on-death's-door Pepper. He will eat ANYthing! (and tries) 

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That's the same two kitties in Rob's arms, on Easter Sunday, along with the much more aloof Star, another rescuee (this time from a friend after a long-ago Bunco game at her house). She's beautiful, though.

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And another close-up of the impossibly cute duo, Ginger and Pepper. Totes photogenic, no?


And today, at the end of the same week, we encountered this sweet old broad walking around near our neighborhood. No one was in sight who might have been her owner, so we took her home to call Animal Control.


We gave her a little food, a bunch of water, and some shelter while Rob called, but it looked like we were going to have her all weekend after it turned out Animal Control doesn't work on the weekends. She was plenty hairy, and we didn't know if she was a he, so we named her Cousin Itt.  She was blind in both eyes, it appeared, and had lots of clumps in her long fur. My guess was someone moved and left her behind, because she knew commands and was as gentle as could be. Sad.


Eventually, though, we had to cut Cousin Itt loose when she kept barking. I tried to calm her, but it was no use. She barked every couple of seconds, and we can't really have her here. We couldn't let her inside, with six cats unused to having a dog around, or else we would have done so. I feel bad, and the kids are still talking about her. But when Rob let her go, she ran off in the direction from which she came, so maybe she did have a home there after all. Let's hope.

Back in a jif with more Miami posts!


Sunday Stealing: The 5000 Q Meme, Part The Sixth

The link is here, so get on it, peeps!

121. Have you ever lost someone without having the chance to say goodbye?

Yeah, my mom. She came home sick from work on a Friday afternoon, stayed in bed all weekend, and died in the wee hours of Monday morning. They called the coroner and whisked her out before my sister and I woke up. We didn't get to see her, say goodbye, go to her funeral, or anything. I'm surprised my dad even let us visit her grave. He had no clue what to do. I've made it my mission in life to make sure that anyone I know in a similar situation understands how important it is that everyone - even the littlest of littles - needs to see the body and say their goodbyes, or closure will NEVER happen, even once the child is old enough to "understand." 
P.S. Telling your 7-year-old child her mother went for a walk with God and letting her sit on the porch for days, or weeks even, on end, waiting for her mother to come back? Terrible idea. She's still waiting...
This coming Tuesday marks the 29th anniversary of her death from untreated diabetes. RIP, Mom. I think of you every single day. ♥
122. How do you feel about women in politics? 

I think the world needs more of them. I think the US, in particular, needs a female president. I'm confident it will happen within the next few elections. We're ready.
123. Would you rather have an indoor Jacuzzi or an outdoor pool? 

I'd much rather have the pool. I get overheated fast in a Jacuzzi, get dizzy, and uncomfortable. No thanks.
124. What things are you interested in that you study or read about regularly? 

There's no limit to that! I absorb everything I can find in the news about sharks - did you see this one?
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125. Would you consider yourself to be intelligent? 

Sometimes, yes, but when I don't, I whip out my Mensa card (not kidding) and show it to myself to remind me! ;)
126. Would you consider yourself to be wise? 

No, I'm a flipping idiot with no common sense, or so says my former stepmother. She can go lick the third rail, though.
127. Have you ever given or received a lap dance? 

Pfft! I would not WANT to receive one - ewww! And if you can consider some of the silly stuff I've done with Hubs to be a lap dance, maybe only then...
128. Have you ever spoken to a homeless person? 

Only about a billion times! I give money when I can and when I know where it's going (though I much prefer giving them food - and watching them scarf it down while I head home).
129. Would you ever creep into the subway tunnels to go exploring? 

There are worse things I can think of doing, but not too many. Anyway, BTDT.
130. If you could add 70 years to your life but only by making some random person die 70 years sooner would you? 

OMG, no! That's horrible!

131. Can you identify any of the following lyrics? 

A: Nothing to kill or die for... 

Imagine by John Lennon
B: Late comings with the late comin' stretcher... 

Uh, no.
C: I could make a film and make you my star...

132. Are you worried about North Korea?

I'd be a fool not to, wouldn't I?
133. Would you rather be a world political leader or a talk-show host? 

I'd never in a million years want to lead a country. I think I'd make a pretty rad talk-show host, actually. Are they hiring?
134. Have you ever given someone a love letter that you wrote? 

Sure I have. Hubs still has a bunch of them from the half-second we were dating before we eloped, I think.
135. Have you ever sent someone a surprise though the mail? 

Yup! What's more fun than getting a surprise care package?!
136. Are you looking forward to any dates right now? Vacation perhaps?

We're supposed to have a date coming up on the 13th, but I really need to find a sitter first. And right now, we're on permanent vacation, so I'm actually looking to an end to that and getting back into some real life stuff!
137. Of all animated movies, which is the best one you've ever seen? 

I'm partial to Finding Nemo, and I like Ponyo, too. It's weird but creative, like everything from Hayao Miyazaki.
138. What are the best bands or songs to listen to while driving? 

Anything sing-alongable, especially loud and with the windows down. That's one of my favorite things to do on the planet! Oh, and the other day, Rob and I were totally car-dancing to some song, rocking out, and we pulled up to a red light. Then we looked over, and a convertible full of cute, young college guys was watching us and laughing their heads off. I DIED laughing!
139. What do you think is the most amazing thing that anyone has ever accomplished? 

I don't think I could answer that. Olympic athletes are capable of amazing feats of human endurance, strength, and acrobatics that I could never dream of accomplishing. Composers, artists, scientists, ... all of that amazes me. People should never give up on finding the thing they really excel at; I believe everyone is a genius at some thing. That's why I let my kids try so many different things. I want them to experience it all!
140. What could a member of the opposite sex do to impress you?  
The guy who makes me laugh the hardest, think the deepest, and smile the most,... he put a ring on it. ♥
Stay tuned for more posts about our new life in Miami, coming up shortly! 

Saturday 9: Whenever I Call You "Friend"

Link up here if you wanna, and stuff.
1) How did you meet your best friend? 
I have lots of "best friends," but my bestest best friend is Dr. Lisa. We went to school together from 6th through 12th grades, in Central NY.
2) Mother Winters used to say she loved all of us kids equally, but at various times she liked one of us more than the others. Does your "friend ranking" ever shift? Or is the person you think of today as your best friend always #1?
She's always #1 in my ranking. Though I did find recently a notebook I'd kept in elementary or middle school, ranking my friends each day. It was hilarious - especially since I didn't remember many of the people!
3) What makes you a good friend?
I'm loyal to a fault. I'd give you the shirt off my back. And when we really know each other and gibe well, I'm pretty freakin' hilarious, too.

4) Think back to your childhood -- what games did you and your friends like to play?
My favorite games in elementary school were Chinese jumprope (and I rawked at it! In! Out! Side! Side! On! In! OUT!) and that silly Cootie Catcher thing. I made up so many of those, and now my girls are into them.  I looooved playing badminton in high school.
5) Would you rather lose your hair, or the little toe on your left foot? (Yes, you must commit to giving one up.)
I've been bald in the very recent past. I'd much rather lose a pinky toe than do that again - especially the one on my right foot, which I've broken more than a handful of times, starting in grad school.

6) Think of  the phrase, "like nails on a blackboard." What is your least favorite sound?
The sound of sandpapering something, or filing ones nails, or ooh! scratching one's nails on blue jeans. Or any other color jeans for that matter. **cringe**
7) Do you add fabric softener to your wash or place a softener sheet in the dryer?
Sheets in the dryer, although I'm looking for alternatives to reduce waste and exposure to the chemicals. Ideas?

8) Showtime, HBO, or neither?
Showtime is the bomb, but we don't have ANY telly right now, so I'd even take the WB. Does that even still exist? I'm so outta the loop. 

9) Have you ever fired a gun?
Yes, one time. A guy whom I later had several police reports filed against was a friend at the time, here in Miami. He took me to a shooting range. I wore the goggles, and the first time I shot the gun, the casing flew down the goggles and burned my eyelid. Hurt like a sumbitch. I kept shooting, though; turns out that I'm a pretty good shot. Same with archery, which I adore.
I'll be back momentarily with Sunday Stealing...