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.
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!
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!)
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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?
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!
Here are the kids celebrating in our gorgeous black-and-white kitchen!
♪ ♫ Celebrate good times, come on! ♫ ♪
Our new master bedroom, ...
...and the master bath.
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. ♥
The kiddos standing in front of our new home
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!